Does not reaching the top count as an experience too?
I want to apologize, there are no pictures apart from the ones from my phone as my tiny camera I brought with me that day stopped working. For more visual experience, visit THIS article (to be published) to see the video.
Getting up early, having a hot soup for breakfast to warm up and packing still a bit wet tent because I could not wait for the sun to reach and dry it out, I arrived at the trail and parked my car on the side of the road. I wrote a big “Clouds Rest, back by the nightfall, 27.8.2017” on a paper and put it on my dashboard in the car so if anyone wanted to give me a ticket for parking there overnight (forbidden), they would know that they should rather start looking for me because I’m lost.
Checking the content of my backpack and ensuring I haven’t forgotten anything, I hit the path. When deciding which one was the right one, two women caught up with me and we continued on our way together.
Well, after about a mile we found out we took the wrong way, had to turn around and start all over. This time we found the right way and soon enough we were crossing a swift river and reaching first big boulders.
As I warned them, as soon as the hill started, we split – in my eyes, it seemed like if they were running up the hill, while I was struggling not to stop every five steps I took.
Luckily, the first hill is supposed to be the hardest part of the whole trail. I had a little celebration after reaching the top, including a first snack and a bit longer break.
Descending into a valley between me and Clouds Rest I had a hard time not thinking about that I was going to have to climb the switchbacks and steps on my way back. I was slowly running out of time; I had to drive all the way home that day and get enough sleep to get up and work on Monday.
I almost trail-ran, crossing several streams until I reached a beautiful lake. There was no time for sitting down and admiring its beauty even though it was spectacular.
Mirroring all the mountains and trees surrounding it and the endless blue sky with only a few fluffy clouds, its surface completely smooth. Surrounded by the most beautiful and colourful flowers I’ve seen in Yosemite so far. With birds singing their amazing songs. The wind making my hair to tickle my face. Completely peaceful moment. It became one of my happy places the moment I saw it and slowed down my steps.
Soon after I left the lake, the terrain started to change once more and I started to ascend again.
By the time I reached the last crossroad, the altitude has fully kicked in and I could hardly take another step.
But I still wanted to reach the top even though the very last stretch is supposed to be a really dangerous place where you have to creep carefully alongside the edge of a cliff.
Yes, I’m writing “supposed to” as I haven’t reached the top.
Before I got onto this last part of the trail, the high altitude combined with whatever problem lies around my heart or lungs got me and I could not continue safely.
And so, after making this hard decision whether to continue and be a hero or a fool for attempting to reach the top while in this state when my head was spinning and I couldn’t see clearly, I sat down right where I was with the view of (probably) Half Dome and all the valleys and mountains covered with smoke from all the fires.
And as I sat there, admiring the beauty, suddenly and actual tear started to flow down my cheek. Disappointed I haven’t reached the top. But happy and grateful at the same time for how far I got. I realized I wouldn’t have gotten so far only a few months ago. And that most people don’t get here and so high at all.
I realized I didn’t have to reach the top to be able to say that I was here and saw this beauty.
I realized that not reaching the top counts as an experience too – and maybe more valuable than doing so.
Knowing where your boundaries are, attempting to break them, but stopping when it starts to be too dangerous is a very important part of discovering yourself – and the world too.
Maybe, if I haven’t listened to what my body and intuition were telling me, there would be nobody to tell you what happened inside my head that day I didn’t make it to the top. It could have been a completely different story which you would have read in a newspaper with some alarming titles as “Tragic Accident Or Foolishness?” and I would have been given as a bad example.
Hopefully, I can be a good example this way.
I know my boundaries have moved a bit that day again – and that one day they’ll move even more and I’ll be able to reach the top not only of this mountain.
Until then, I keep taking on challenges, hitting trails, climbing other mountains, exploring what I can do and trying, trying, trying.
As I walked back through the valley, a thick smoke brought here by the wind started to catch up with me and I barely made it back to the top of the first hill before the whole valley was filled with white air.
And I learned another thing – there was another reason for me not making it to the top of Clouds Rest that day than my realization.
As I saw the smoke covering all my past path, I knew I wouldn’t be able to breathe in it enough to keep going. If I stayed there, made it to the top, I wouldn’t make it back. I knew I was too tired and that the smoke would have stopped me completely. And I was grateful once again for not attempting to reach the top.
Getting in my car and leaving Yosemite, the air was completely red as the smoke changed the colour of sunlight. An eerie silence covered the whole park as I drove home, listening to some podcast, ironically, about boundaries and breaking them.
I have learned so much that day.
And I hope this story can be and is a good example.
Thank you for taking your time to read this article. Means world to me.
And have a beautiful day! 🙂