Lessons Learned: Don't Let the Goal Overtake the Experience
Sometimes a gentle reminder is necessary. The reminder for me was to enjoy every moment of the experience rather than worry about the end goal. It came last week while standing on an 8,745-foot peak, sixteen miles deep in the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington State.
I’d found myself there days after deciding to count my summits for the year. My tally of 21 just didn’t seem like enough so I devised a plan to add three more over three days. Gathering beta for the climbs, I shoved gear in my overnight pack and drove five hours to a remote area I’d long wanted to visit.
The plan seemed simple enough: 40 miles, 11,000 feet of elevation gain, three mountains. We set off. Thankfully, things did not go according to plan.
Slipping on a log six miles in, I whacked my face and knee. By the time we’d reached the first lake at 10 miles, an unexpected snow squall soaked our trail-runners and kept us shivering even as we hiked uphill. Getting dark, we missed the junction for the lake where we’d planned to meet a friend and camp.
Two hours later, I was drenched and had slid down wet, grassy slopes at least three times. I was cold. I was hungry. I was no longer having fun. After another half mile of miserable walking, we realized where we were. I declared us done, popped up the tent and tried to sleep through the cold.
Morning brought sunshine and drier clothes. We set out to climb Mount Carru and Mount Lago, two rocky peaks separated by a couloir. A gully led us to a short rock face that we scrambled over until finding a meadow and traversing to another rock gully that led to Carru’s summit. After some hot cocoa and snapping a few pictures, we returned to the meadow before slipping over loose scree to our next summit.
The views made me want to hug the wilderness. Stretched out before me were hundreds of peaks, ridge lines and valleys full of golden larches. It was then that I realized - this view was enough. This moment was enough. This experience, peppered with minor obstacles that injected discomfort into the journey, was enough. But I wasn’t ready to admit it. I still wanted that third summit. I still wanted to push my list of summits as high as it could go.
After staying too long, we descended the steep, wet gully in the dark. We overshot the trail back to camp and didn’t realize it until our path was cut off by a river. After 40 minutes of wandering, we found our way back and relished good ‘ole macaroni & cheese and some much needed rest.
Setting my alarm for 5 a.m, I hoped we could get moving early and bag the third peak on our way out and still get home before midnight. The cold in the air and tenderness of my feet kept me snug in my sleeping bag until 7 a.m.
Even as we began the long walk back to the trailhead, I was searching for ways to squeeze in that last mountain. It could be done but at the price of further achy muscles and a late night, which would then carry over into the next work day.
I realized I was focusing more on the next goal rather than appreciating the beauty and the good times currently unfolding. I let go, switching my attention to the golden glow of the larches and the way the sunlight sparkled on the water like diamonds.
We didn’t get the third summit that weekend, but we got myriad memories and one heck of an adventure. Enough was enough. And in the end, isn’t that what I really wanted?
Written by Stacia Glenn
Stacia is a THISWORLDEXISTS Adventure Ambassador. You can see more of her adventures on Instagram: @staciangeliques