I had a John Krakauer “Into Thin Air” moment when I met my friend Ellen at 7 am with headlamp on, (Ellen had gifted me the headlamp), ready to skin up Park City Mountain for my first sunrise hike. It was all new to me. The equipment, the climb, being on a mountain in the dark, my untested strength to keep up with the skinning group in altitude. Fears of not being strong enough, failing, and the drive to conquer. Fear flooded my brain. I realized I had not tested or pushed myself physically in a very long time. It was both exhilarating and sickening and I was all in.
“What scares you and excites you and is something you want to do in 2022” was my writing prompt for our Girl’s Night Out women’s writing group last Sunday. Twenty two women wrote for 8 minutes and shared something that exhilarated but tested their muster that they wanted to take on. You could see the nervous excitement that spread across their faces as they shared their goals.
Each time I told someone I planned to skin up Park City Mountain this year, I got sweaty palms and a rush of adrenaline and I hadn’t even purchased the equipment. I knew this was going to be a stretch for me. This new sport would definitely push me beyond my comfort zone. Last year I heard so much about skinning and I wanted to try it but ducked out every time I was invited. But, I knew I was an If not now then when moment. As the years tick on I notice how the aging process is cloaked in fear and staying active and trying new things makes me feel more confident and somewhat defiant about the inevitable process of slowing down.
So now it was skinning D-day. I bought the equipment and videoed the sales guy’s demonstration of the intricate binding system. It barely made sense as switched from walk mode to ski mode and, at 6 am of Day One skinning, it made even less sense. Rewatching the video for the umpteenth time that morning, the clock was ticking and I knew I had to just do it!
Ellen picked me up and we were already late as we were meeting her other skinning posse, so there was no time to futz around. We parked and carried our skies to the base in the dark, squinting, despite the headlamps, I managed, miraculously, to fit my boots into the binding pins. And so we began. There is no magic to this sport as I learned pretty quickly. It’s all work as you slide the skis up a steep incline and lung capacity is essential. So, for the next hour-plus we hiked up from slight incline to the bigger pitches and the rhythm of the breath was the metronome that kept one foot moving in front of the other. There was little air left for talking.
“Ellen, I think I’m going to slip down, I don’t trust these skis to hold me.” Ellen is quick on her feet and in great shape but incredibly patient..
“Trust the equipment, you are doing great.”
“Please don’t wait for me, I will get there.” But of course she did, making light of my panting as I reached her at each new elevation. And so pole by pole, breath by breath, surrounded by much younger skinners, I reached the top of the slope.
“Omg, This is insane. I did it…I did it! The sun was rising, the sky pink and the light electric. I couldn’t believe how exhilarated I felt. Sweating and energized, I was bubbling with excitement as I started to peel off my skins and put them in my backpack and move my bindings into ski mode readying for the descent.
” I feel amazing, I’m so glad I did this….. I know I was slow, but I can see what great aerobic shape I could get in if I came out here a few times a week.”
And that was it. All the perseverating and endless excuses were so last year. I had truly tackled a very big personal physical goal. Of course, I knew I may be the oldest person out there on the hill, but hell, who cares. I did it and I would to do it again and again. This kick in the ass goal was a great reminder of how intoxicating and alive it made me feel to move beyond my comfort zone.