I couldn’t sleep the night before our hut trip. At 2 am the forecast posted 40 mile per hour winds late the next day and plummeting temperatures to minus 6 over night.
My heart palpitated as I lay in bed at my friend Katie’s house at an altitude of 8100 feet. It’s easy to explain a rapid heart rate at those lofty heights. But still, I knew it wasn’t just the thin air in that comfy house, but the anticipation of the curve balls of volatile mountain weather that I was fixated on.
Trying to shake off the grip of the weather app, I practiced a simple meditation. “So What!” I said to my self over and over again purposefully turning the two words into a rhythmic breathing practice.
“Breathe in “SO” and exhale “What” and continue for 5 minutes…that will stop the chest thumps I told myself.” And it did.
I laughed at myself as I finished my breathing exercise and checked the weather App one more time….
I had googled our destination hut, Vance’s Cabin, and knew it would have a wood burning stove which once started we would have to stoke every 2 hours to heat the hut. There would be no running water, we would have to melt the snow. We would be thirsty for sure as the hut is at 11,000 feet. The outhouse was pretty far from the cabin and would require a headlamp for middle of the night visits.
I took comfort thinking about the 7 other women Katie had invited. Although I knew only three of them, I was sure they were all seasoned in the back country and together we would make it work.
“Night, night old girl,” I muttered to myself and tucked deeper under my covers. I was remembering cross country skiing on my first Yurt trip with Katie and how I stepped up for the big task of stoking the fire. I was anxious about the fire going out and Katie reassured me that it would not as long as it was fed every few hours. And then she fell asleep. That night the temperatures dropped to 10 below and every 2 hours I was miraculously wide awake stoking the fire. Katie slept peacefully. She was confident there was no way I would let that fire got out. We made a great pair.
It may not be obvious that I love going on these hut trips. but the truth is, I do. I love the thrill of pushing myself physically combined with disconnecting from most technology (no cell phone but I do bring my Kindle) it’s a real adventure.
Having an experienced leader of course makes it all doable. Hiking in the wilderness with my friend Katie and her sister Amy who go out regularly on hut trips takes the edge off the unknown. So in fact, my anxiety is mostly around what I can’t control and that’s the weather.
“Mom, please don’t go into the mountains in a blizzard if you aren’t comfortable.” My older son counseled.
“Don’t worry, 4 of the women have “Ava” gear. ”
“Ava gear, excuse me, WHAT!”
“Well, the avalanche beacons are really effective and due to the warm winter start, and the powder dumps this past week, we were advised to bring them.
“But don’t worry, I’m only snowshoeing, I’m going to stay on the path to the cabin and not look for powder to ski. I will be fine (if I can find the path back out I thought to myself).”
“If you’re anxious don’t go.” he repeated. I listened and reflected, “I’m not that anxious.”
This adrenaline junky behavior has been a recurring thing in my life.
Just last week I talked my friend Cheryl into a joint jump off a steep and deep cornice called Lover’s Leap in Vail.
“The first part feels like you’re falling into air, but it’s not as bad as it looks. Stay super close to the back of my skis,” I coached her as she followed me to the precipice. Cheryl held her breath and we seamlessly landed together onto the powdery pitch. When we stopped after a few turns, we let out a holler and hugged, proud of our daring devilishness.
The truth is, since I love the outdoors and getting deep into nature, I’m lucky to have buddies who still love to explore and push. My friend Katie however sets the highest bar on physical challenges and I love her for patiently fielding my incessant pre-treking questions and inviting me back.
The reality is, once I’m out on the trail, I’m exhilirated. It’s all the before stuff that makes me nuts. Anxiety and adventure make the most natural bedfellows and that’s the deal.
Besides, forecasts in the mountains are rarely accurate.