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It’s a strange animal, is hiking. From all the years that I’ve struggled to have any kind of focus, it has only been over the last couple of years that hiking, especially alone, has caused a paradigm shift and keys specifically into my internal drive. I get bored very easily and my mind wanders all over the place; this has been an issue in not progressing to the levels I should have in life (from a physical perspective). Something about hiking changes that and the harder the hike, the more determined and focused I am.

I’ve tried for years to understand how I can get my mind to operate to the normal path of stimulus and to silence everything external, to listen to the internal. As I’ve been finding out, the opposite is true for me. I need every muscle in my body crying out to give up because only then, have I been able to detach and have truly constructive inner dialog.

Of course it would be nice to have a normal path of focus but hey, I’m certainly not complaining. It’s taken over 36 years to have an overnight realisation, that this is what motivates me, and it’s better late than never. Now the challenge is to work out how to best use this resource, without crippling myself in the process.

Speaking of hikes, this past Saturday was a cracker. It was my chance to see how much more fitness I would need, before climbing up the full 14k height of Mt Rainier at some point. I hit the 10k mark at Camp Muir and had to convince myself to take every step, past about half-way. I found out so much more about my own drive and will-power and will need to come up here a few more times, to increase my fitness level and altitude acclimatisation. It was a hard, depressing 5 hours for me and the return trip was certainly no picnic. After hitting just about every footstep into a mid-calf deep snow hole, my gaiters were soon flapping uselessly to the side and my boots were soaked through. After reaching about 2/3 the way down, I was unable to keep my footing enough on a particularly steep drop and opted for a sitting glissade instead. After picking up a little too much pace, I rammed one of my hiking poles deep into the snow, and immediately heard it crack. I did reach the bottom of the slope safely but now had to hobble the rest of the distance to the car, wet and with only one pole to keep propping me up when I sank into every hole. I’m glad I did it and intend to return soon, albeit with some different items to make the ascent/descent more comfortable.

I learned a lot of things, that really should have been common sense at the start. Firstly, always take a hat. I did have a head scarf for portions of the hike but the blazing Sun burned the back of my head badly and it’s still red and throbbing, two days later. Secondly, know your surroundings. I was caught off-guard when my hiking partner skied down and assumed I knew the path. I realised that while I knew I was heading in the right direction, I was unsure to which car park or exit I would emerge at – this could have been really dangerous if the weather had suddenly changed as I would have become lost and disoriented. Lastly, always take some form of communication and have contacts names/numbers on hand. When we arrived there was no cell signal, so I left my phone in the car. Only when I was almost down did I realise I didn’t even know numbers of family and friends to rescue me, should I become stranded near one of the car parks.

The mental notes are made and I won’t make the same mistakes again. I can’t wait to get back up there.