Sunday, January 23, 2011

Failure to success

Mt. Washington, NH

Not the average work day!
It all started in August of 2009. My older brother, Geoff, called me up from Rhode Island and asked if I wanted to take a trip with him and his good friend Sam.  I never go away without my family, but I thought some male bonding would be great at this time in my life.  "Where are we going?" I asked.  He exclaimed, "Mt. Washington, we want to summit the mountain.  The trip will be in February".  February, I thought, nice brisk weather, no running, just walking, "no biggie".  I own my veterinary practice.  I didn't have to ask anyone but my wife if I could take a few days off away from the family.  Being a cool guy from south Florida and having an ego bigger than the mountain itself, I said "of course I will join you, what the hell?" 
What the hell was right! What the hell was I thinking? What the hell is ANYTHING doing on the side of that mountain in the middle of winter? More importantly, What the hell is a man from Florida doing on that mountain in the middle of winter? What the hell was my brother thinking, other than trying to kill me? 
Not knowing better at the time, I chose to do it.  So, training began. Training consisted of high intensity cardio work out and walking with a 40lb backpack on flat Florida trails.  I have taken myself from a chubby 41 year old to a not very chubby 41 year old.  I have not been in such good shape since I was 18, so I thought. My brother and his friend, living in RI, had a bit of a different training. 
On our way up!
They were not too far from the mountains, so they would take trips and do training on the snowy mountains up in Massachusettes and New Hampshire.  I figured at the time that I was in good enough shape and  the only thing that they have me beat at is getting used to the cold temperatures.  I personally think that a jacket is quite reasonable in the low 70's. 
February came around pretty quick. I met my brother and his friend in RI and we drove off to Mount Washington. We stayed the night in the city of North Conway, where we met up with the 2 guides that were taking us up the following day.  The guides did a gear check with us and told us where to meet them the next morning. We woke the next morning at 4 a.m. It was pretty cold in that city, but that was nothing compared to what I was in for. We drove an hour to the base of the mountain. 
When we arrived at the base, the temperature had fallen to about 10F. Everything was white from snow. It was no more than 5 minutes after getting out of the car that I realized that I forgot something at home. It was not my boots or my jacket. Not my smart wool socks either. It was my courage! I think I left it at the Palm Beach Airport. Wherever it was, I couldn't find it. Here I was at the base of the mountain with quite a bit of fear. Not fear about dying, but fear that the desire to climb into my warm bed at home would overcome my desire to climb the mountain. After $2000 in equipment, airline ticket and hotel room, I was going to climb, no matter what.  
All ready? Not!!
So we started up. A breath of fresh air came over me. I felt excited and strong. I had a feeling that I was unstoppable.  I guessed my courage had returned.  I guessed at that point we were going to summit Mt. Washington. Well, within 10 minutes, all those feelings vanished. My head was no longer in the game.  It was down hill from there. 3 hours into the climb, my legs felt like they were wet sleeping bags. My eyes were going in and out of focus. Every step was getting more impossible. But people were counting on me and I had to go on. As time went on, I was stumbling.  The wind was picking up and the temperature was falling, and so was I. I was falling. And the guide did not like that. Truth be told, the guide said "It's time to send you down the mountain". I quickly said to save face "I'm fine", then I vomited. Despite what I said, he sent me down with the other guide. As I said my farewells to the group,which pushed on, I had a sense of relief. (My brother and his friend made it another 6 hours, then had to turn back due to exhaustion and freezing their asses off). 
I safely got down the mountain with my pride hurt. But I was safe. I also had the opportunity to have a few beers and a pizza. That was the best meal I ever had. Upon returning to Florida, I fudged the story to my friends.  But to you, this is the true failure story.

Now, my success story.  My wife and I took a trip up to the White Mountains that following summer. I asked her if she would like to try to climb Mount Washington. With a bit of convincing, she said she would try. Being on a trip alone without the kids, we slept in and started the hike at 11 a.m. I do not recommend that to anyone, especially in that area. Nonetheless, we started. We went up Mount Washington in 3 1/2 hours.(Down took us 4 1/2 hours). It was spectacular. The views were amazing, and most importantly, my pride is back and better than ever. My ego is still a bit humbled. And yes I know, it is a lot easier to do the climb during the summer. I don't care!!!!

My wife and I have many little stories like this one locked up in our head. We enjoy reliving these memories by writing and talking about them.  The story of the hike up Mt. Washington will be told in another blog written by my wife.  Hope you enjoyed the story and had a bit of a laugh at my expense.


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