Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not All Summits are Created Equal

Not all summits are created equal.

For the past two months, my sister and I have hiked up Mt. Mansfield in varying degrees.  Sometimes for five minutes, and other times for thirty minutes.  The only common thread is that we never summited.  My sister, Sabe, has been recovering from a concussion, and it's been a long road.  During the proper recovery, there's no stimulating the brain.  This is the only way to let the brain heal. This means no screens, no reading, no social situations, and definitely no elevated heart rate.  There's lots of sleeping and even more podcasts.    Working out is one of the last things to come, and Sabe has learned to be very conservative with the whole process.  If she pushes through a headache physically with a workout, socially, or mentally, it could set her back for days.  It could take many hours of napping to get back to ground zero.  So, we started with a fifteen to twenty minute walk up the mountain.  We made it up the first steep pitch and turned around after seven minutes.  As Sabe said, 'we didn't even go anywhere'.

Then, things really improved after a handful of days post walk. Sabe passed the concussion tipping point.  She started out a hike up to Taylor Lodge on Mansfield hammering.  It was so exciting.  We made it all of the way to Taylor Lodge and hiked for one and a half hours. She even ran for two hundred meter stretches.   Sabe was so happy to be back to normal that she started to cry.  I was so overjoyed to have my sister back that I started to cry, and this was one of the best hikes I have ever been on.  It signified that Sabe healed.  Concussions are scary because one never knows.  There can be personality changes. There can be life changes. There can be memory loss.  There's pain, in more forms than one expects, and there's always a question mark.  In a society where we strive for exceptional and better than average, I've never been so happy with a normal, average sister.  I am so relieved.

Then, the following weekend I thought we were going to summit Mansfield.  I thought we were taking this story from average to slightly above average.  After how many summit attempts we have had, one would start to think this mountain was Everest.  What Sabe used to run up and down in two hours, for all intensive purposes, was our current Everest.  We set out, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and we made it to Butler Lodge.  Butler Lodge is about three quarters of the way to the summit, but it's not the top.  For the conservative approach, the extra forty minutes of hiking was too much.  The two hours of hiking to Butler warranted some major Sabe nap sessions.  I am normally summit obsessed.  There are very few things in life I like more than standing at the top of a mountain.  But, the concussion recovery is a good practice in letting go, patience, and appreciation.  A new bar is set low, and the best expectation is to have none.  I let go of the top and started to enjoy being outside and moving with my sister.

In classic concussion recovery, when I least expected it, we were back to Davison normal.  It was cloudy, snowy, and rainy, and Sabe wasn't that motivated for a hike.  From below, it was an awful day for a summit.  But, I saw from a friend's Instagram that the top of the mountains may be peaking out of a low cloud bank.  So, armed with headlamps and spikes, we set out late afternoon for a summit.  I didn't want to get my hopes up for a summit and especially for a view at the summit.  I just set my focus on scrambling up the mountain behind Sabe while she hammered up (yea, she's officially back).  Most of the hike was a frosted Narnia scene.  It was gorgeous.  We saw two white rabbits dart in front of us, a good luck charm.  Then, as the sun slowly dropped behind the horizon, we busted through the cloud layer and summited.  We were standing on top of a mountain island in a sea of clouds.  It was well worth the wait.  To me, this was just as good as any other summit in the entire world.

Not all summits are created equal.

With much gratitude,

 Photos don't really convey the feeling, but I can try.  Magical

 The moment when we busted through

 Frosted Wonderland

 Summit Scramble