One step at a time…
I finish lacing up my boots, running the red cord up and around the eyes, and with a flourish of the bow, finish. Today we are hiking up to Glacier Basin and onward to Camp Schurman. It is one of my favorite hikes because it taught me a life-long lesson. I believe it was the August ’82 trip when I first climbed the Inter Glacier route to Schurman with Ken. The Inter is tucked within the Wedge, which separates the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers. It is small but fairly angled – a great hike for conditioning and getting acquainted with the peculiar characteristics of a glacier field.
Ken and I had made good time to Glacier Basin, and we continued on without rest (stopping only to hastily swallow a sandwich) to the lichen-strewn boulders at the base of the glacier. Looking up at the steep slope of the Inter under a blazing midday sun, I felt fear of exhaustion and failure to reach the top of the Wedge. I was (and still am) quite a novice at the time, and had no idea how to joyfully surmount such a goal. It’s amazing how the body can listen to discouraging signals of a reluctant mind at such a time. So, with a resignation of spirit the climb began.
The snow was firm and not overly slushy. At first I went slow, telling myself to save my strength. I resumed my habit of counting steps and almost of its own accord my body fell into a a pace. It was not fast, but it was steady, and I found this to be an invaluable lesson. Instead of going quickly for two hundred steps and stopping with pounding heart and screaming lungs, I proceeded for five hundred steps and felt much stronger for it, while covering a greater distance in the same amount of time. Rhythm and pace placed me on the Wedge. Later that afternoon we stopped near Camp Curtis in fine shape, rewarded with a view of intense beauty.
Many times I have thought of the essence of that hike and have applied it to the hardest daily treks, and the walk of life. Happily, I am still able to sometimes reach a summit or goal without exhaustion.