Climbing Mt. Washington
by Jeannette D.
One of the most exciting and challenging hikes I ever went on took place about twenty five years ago. My boyfriend of six months asked me if I wanted to go camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
It was one of my favorite places. His sister and her boyfriend and some of their friends were coming, too. Then my boyfriend told me that his ex-girlfriend was coming also, and was I okay with that. He said that they were still good friends.
I thought it over and said that I would go. I respected his honesty.
It was a hot July day when we arrived at our large campsite in a campground along the Kangamangus Highway. We cooked our food and shared stories by the fire, while one of the guys played the guitar.
The next morning, my boyfriend asked if anyone wanted to climb Mt. Washington. I must admit, I was speechless. I knew that this mountain was the highest peak in the Northeast! I wasn't sure if I was in good enough shape for a hike of this magnitude.
I was quickly outnumbered though, and everyone packed their gear. We were ready to go! We checked the weather conditions (Mt. Washington is known for some of the world's worst weather conditions, all year round) and got a trail map at the visitor center.
The hike started out fine, but after about half an hour, the trail's increasing difficulty caused us to slow down a little. My boyfriend, his ex-girlfriend and two of the others went ahead of us. They kept stopping and telling us to hurry up.
When we caught up to them, they went ahead of us again. Finally, they said they would just meet us at the top. I was mortified as I watched my boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend, happily chatting away, leave us in the dust. I was so jealous that I was invited on this trip and he was spending the day with her instead of with me!
Even his sister agreed that he was being selfish. She said that I could hike up with them. There was nothing I could do, so I made the best of it. We were all in agreement; we would prove to them that we could make it to the top.
Sheer determination renewed our energy. The scenery all around us was spectacular. We grew very tired and our legs and feet ached. When we sat down on the rocks and took a break, I suddenly realized that my boyfriend, who was long gone, had all my supplies in his backpack!
I had no food, only a canteen of water. My new friends came through and shared their food. Somehow, I knew everything would be okay. Hours later, we passed the tree line, and the weather changed dramatically. The weather was surely living up to its reputation.
A strong cold wind whipped over the bare rocks up ahead. It was really chilly now. I thought of my coat neatly tucked in my boyfriend's backpack. Luckily, his sister spotted them up in the distance. She whistled to them and motioned to her brother to leave my coat on one of the rocks. Afterwards, I was never so happy to see my coat.
Onward we trekked. We knew the summit was near because we had to crawl on all fours to scale the steep weathered smooth rock. We made it to the top, sore and exhausted but ever so thrilled that we did it!
It was truly an exhilarating feeling! The view from the top was unbelievably beautiful.
We dragged our tired bodies into the lodge. We spotted my boyfriend, his ex-girlfriend and the others sitting down relaxing at a table. They looked a little surprised to see us. We could barely speak; too tired for words. We collapsed into the chairs.
Not even five minutes later, they got up from the table and said they would meet us at the bottom of the mountain. Their callousness was shocking!
After climbing for four long hours, we were not moving anytime soon. They warned us not to sit too long; we were not sure why. We ate, rehydrated ourselves, and reminisced about our journey.
Half an hour or more had passed, when we finally got up. We halfheartedly begin the hike back down the mountain. After about twenty minutes of hiking, we understood why we shouldn't have sat down so long. Our muscles had cooled down and stiffness set in. The pain of hiking up was nothing compared to the pain we felt now!
A short while later we saw a sign for Auto Road parking (for the people that drove their cars up the Auto Road) and headed that way. In the parking lot, someone in the group came up with a great idea! We would see if we could get a ride down!
Scanning the parking lot, we found a guy with a pickup truck. He agreed to give us a ride down the mountain for ten bucks. All of us hopped in the back. Maybe we could even beat the others to the bottom! It was worth a try!
We had the driver drop us off just before the last bend in the road where we were to meet the others. Confidently we walked around the corner and there they were waiting for us. The look of surprise on their faces was reward enough.
When they asked, we said that we had hiked down but they didn't believe us. Our little hoax gave everybody a good laugh!
What I learned from this experience was, the best person to rely on was myself. I was able to turn an uncomfortable situation around. Inner strength and determination emerged just when I needed it. Regardless of what happened, the greatest accomplishment was mine!