Big Slide and The Brothers: Call on Courage

“Stop talking about your mountains….start climbing them”- Alexis Grant  

Isn’t this so true?  When we continue to speak about our mountains, it actually makes them bigger..the challenge, the problem, whatever it is you are facing.  Instead, we need to face those fears head on…just start climbing and stop talking!  

While my climb to Mount Colden was about finding peace, this predecessor journey up to Big Slide was about reclaiming my life and taking down “my mountains.”

It was a snowy November day when I climbed Big Slide Mountain in the Adirondacks.  The plan was to hike a loop ascending via the Brothers and descending via the Slide Brook Trail, ending along John Brooks Lodge on the Phelps Trail or vice versa.  Big Slide would be my 5th High Peak out of the 46 to conquer.  It is also the twenty-seventh high peak, standing at 4240 ft. at the summit.IMG_8388On November 14, 2015, I left the Garden Trailhead at 7:45 a.m.  Next to my name in the register, I wrote Exodus 14:14.  I would remind myself often this day to “be still, and let faith fight for me.”

I stood there for a  few minutes, contemplating my route.  As I mentioned, it was snowing, which was a new challenge for me as far as hiking in the Adirondacks goes.  It was also 15 degrees with 30-40 mph winds…again, all new circumstances. So there I stared, at this sign….trying to figure out my next move.  I didn’t want to stand out as someone who had no idea what she was doing.  So I fidgeted with my gaiters, tightening and retightening them, until some other hikers passed by.

They looked like “real hikers” so I followed the path up to Big Slide via the Brothers, mainly because that’s where the crowd was headed.  Remember that my pace is somewhere between those expert climbers and those that take their time.  I was adventuring solo so I had a time constraint.  Out and back before dark. 

IMG_8390The first mile of the hike ascended fairly quickly, with some switchbacks here and there.  But then the terrain transformed a bit more and up I went. I would be climbing over each of the brothers before approaching the summit of Big Slide.  With only a mile and a half to the summit of the first brother, I psyched myself into thinking it would be easy.

Those mountains…the symbolic ones in my mind, they were with me every step of the way on this one.  I’ve learned that life is made of ebbs and flows.  As soon as I conquer one fear and experience victory,  another fear seems to creep up from behind, throwing another mountain in my path.  The mountain I was taking down on this journey was anger, believe it or not.

Some things in my life at this point had crashed around me again.  I made the decision that I was not going to let anger or pain from “my world caving in” stop me.  Reclaiming my courage. I would reclaim it and in turn, myself.

The climb up to the first brother was the toughest mentally.  I almost called it quits.  I even stopped in the middle of the trail and  said exasperatedly, “What the hell am I doing?!”  “This is crazy,” I thought.  “You are a single mother, with 3 kids you love at home.  Do you really need to climb all this way just to prove to yourself that you won’t break?!?” Yes…the answer was yes.  Yes I did…

You know what I realized?  The first mile or so of climbing is much like the first mile or so of running.  Those miles are liars…they flat out lie to you. Don’t ever trust them.  They are always the first “mountains” that are thrown into your path. The ones that try like the devil to persuade you out of victory.

You must continue to climb!  Push yourself past the fear, past the doubt.  Yes, one foot in front of the other…I traveled all that way to the Adirondacks to take back my life and that’s what I intended to do.

I would not be angry.  I would be strong. I would NOT succumb to those liar miles.   I would be still and let faith fight this one for me.

I reached the first brother about an hour after I began.  The winds were crazy! 30-40 mph gusts with snow blowing all around me!  I felt like Yukon Cornelius as I forcefully stepped one foot forward into the strong winds.

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Summit of the First Brother

The sun was trying to peak through…time?  8:53 a.m.  Temperature:  9 degrees.

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I have to admit…despite battling the weather and my “mind mountains”, the view was quite breathtaking.  Even through the snow-filled clouds and wind.

Some hikers had passed me there with their dogs, as I put on my microspikes and took out my trekking poles to aid my journey.  The trail led me back into the trees, which was actually much colder to me.  The snow had cascaded gently over the pine trees and the air had fallen silent.

This was one of my favorite parts of this hike…it was extremely peaceful as I continued wind around the path.  The anger inside began to dissipate.  I began to truly enjoy the beauty that encompassed me. Nothing but the sound of snow crunching under foot.  The quiet wind whispering through the trees. Breathe in, be still.  Breathe out, have faith.IMG_8396

The climb to the second brother felt much easier for some reason…even though the weather was still putting up a fight at the summit.  I was moving my mountains, one step at a time.  Stronger with each step.  Beauty surrounded me, and  I had chosen to find joy in the adversity.  Instead of allowing the toxic emotions to get in the driver’s seat.  I am always better when I am in the mountains…always.

I reached the third brother about 45 minutes later…and stepped out to a ledge to capture a closer view of Big Slide Mountain.  There she is, behind me in the photograph below.

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Thank goodness for microspikes and the ability to balance.  Proud. Humbly proud that I had made it this far.

After trekking back to where the trail led, I reached the junction of Slide Brook Trail.  The summit of Big Slide was just up ahead.  There was zero visibility at this point and the air temperature dropped a few more degrees.  Four hikers had come down from the summit as I was heading up…one of them had advised that I return via the same route I ascended, rather than taking the Slide Brook Trail for the loop.  He said that the water was tricky down that way and was worried about me trying that alone. So the loop would have to wait for a redo hike of this peak sometime in the future.IMG_8399

So up, up, up I went on more stairs of the Adirondacks! Just a bit further to go…

I reached the summit at 10:56 a.m. in 3 hours and 20 minutes.

Temperature: 5 degrees. Snow depth: 2 inches or so  Wind speed:  WINDY!!

I carefully stepped out to the summit.  Zero visibility.  I really could not see in front of me, so I quickly turned around and headed back to the clearing before climbing back down the stairs.  Fear had gotten the better of me, and in a good way. I wanted to be safe since I was climbing alone.

Don’t be fooled by my selfie-stick smile!  I had to wait between the wind gusts to take the pictures!

I had carried a small rock up in my backpack with me from a previous climb.  I placed it in the snow and rested my hand on it to pray, as I always do at the summits.  I prayed for stillness. I prayed for understanding of the things I cannot change.  I said a prayer of gratitude for finding beauty in a time of trouble and one of thankfulness for not giving up.

Breathe in, be still.  Breathe out, have faith.

Since the weather was less than desirable, I began my descent.  Much to my surprise, the sky and weather had cleared up by the time I reached the second brother again.  The snow stopped.  The wind had ceased.  The views on the descent were so incredible!

Winter in the mountains = instant love.

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The Great Range from the 2nd Brother

Most of the hike, I was completely alone.  The people I met along the way were all very kind and helpful. Looking back on it now, this was truly a beautiful climb.  At the time, it felt grueling, both inside and out.  Now, being a bit more experienced, having climbed 14 peaks to date, I may have chosen to make the loop as planned.

I reached the trailhead at 1:40 p.m. So it took me a total of 6 non-stop hours exactly to hike this 8 mile route.  The downfall of the weather?  I wasn’t really prepared for it as far as food went.  I didn’t stop to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I did drink ALL of my water before I reached the summit of Big Slide…not good.  I ate 2 Cliff bars on this climb.  That was it.  Water and Cliff bars.

By the time I reached the trailhead register to sign out, I was feeling a bit shaky. Lesson learned. More water…more food….and be prepared to take breaks, regardless of the weather!

I believe resilience and flexibility are the key when climbing a mountain. (And the occasional internal temper-tantrum on various stopping points along the way.)

I was off to the Ausable Inn for an early dinner later on: a burger and a beer. Then curling up in front of a fire until the next day’s adventure…

Positive: Mountain moved for today!  Reclaimed inner self!  Call to Courage answered! It was a step…another positive step.

So stop talking and start facing.  Climb your mountains and you too, shall rise.

Amen,

J

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