My Mountain Nemesis

2.02.2010 | Motivation

Gather ’round, and hear my tale of woe – my Fisher Peak defeat.

After a night on the town in Kimberley, BC, it was decided that the following morning we would tackle the nearly 10,000ft Fisher Peak. To say that I was unprepared for this climb would be a vast, bottomless understatement. I can’t remember the entire climb, given that I was pretty much sobbing the entire way up, but I’ll give you the details that have burned themselves into my unforgiving brain to this day…

The hike began in a lovely forest. About 3 steps onto the trail it begins to go pretty much vertical. I think I walked for 45 seconds before I had to stop and catch my breath, pulling at the collar of my shirt, feeling as though I were choking. It was instantly obvious that I was going to be the slow one in the group, and I hated that. I am very competitive, especially with myself, so this was a huge blow to my pride. We were a group of about eight people, all of whom lived in the area and had done the hike before. (Our “guide” had NOT done the hike before, and this would prove to be a key element in my sad, sad failure).

Up we hiked, and on I sobbed. My poor then-boyfriend (W) tried very hard to comfort me, but it was useless. I was a mess, and being very hard on myself. After hiking for a couple of hours we came upon a clearing where there was a small lake where the entire hiking party had been for nearly half an hour waiting for me (and W who was wildly getting the brunt of my sheer hatred for the wilderness), and they were ready to go. I had hiked for hours. I had sobbed and snuffled my way for hours. I was exhausted. I sat down by the lake and attempted to calm myself, as the rest of the group got ready to go. I had no time to rest or get my act together. I looked up to where the trail went, and I saw in front of me one of a hiker’s most dreaded things: a huge, steep scree slope.

Scree is essentially loose bits of shale that have gone to the Dark Side, and are very, very evil. When you walk on scree, it goes like this: one step up, slide two steps back. This was NOT what I wanted to do. I knew that after the scree slope, it wouldn’t be that far to the summit, but I knew I didn’t have it in me. I sadly told my party that instead of slowing them down anymore, I would wait by the lake while they went to the top. I am sure they were happy to hear it, but gave me the obligatory “are you sure?”. No, I was not sure. But I was a mess at this point, and knew I had to stop. And so, I sat at the lake, and watched my hiking party tackle the scree slope. 15 minutes later, they disappeared behind a rocky outcropping. All was silent.

I sobbed. Hard. I angrily tossed rocks into the lake. I swore at myself, and hated myself, and got angrier and angrier… “SCREW THIS!” I said. I decided that I COULD do it, and that I WOULD do it! I stood up, and marched with determination toward the scree slope. I started climbing. I slid, I swore, I cried, but I kept going, all by myself, yelling in my head with each step. The anger in me was the energy I needed to get me up that slope. After about 20 minutes, I began to hear cheering. My friends had looked down and seen me coming up the slope, and were rooting me on! I can do this! I was struggling, and fighting, and using everything I had in me to get up this seemingly impossible slope, unsure of what lay ahead once I arrived.

Finally, as I reached the top of the scree slope and fell into the arms of the extremely patient W, everyone around me was clapping. I cried because I was so happy, but just so very, very tired. More than anything else, the physicality of my emotions had all but depleted me. But I knew I could hike for a few more minutes if it meant reaching the top.

And here is where it all goes terribly wrong.

Our “guide” comes up, congratulates me, and says “good job! Ok, so take a second to rest up. We’ve got about an hour or so until we reach the summit”.

My heart sank. An hour or so?

I cannot possibly do another hour. I tell W that I cannot do it. I am defeated. He understands. I wish them all well, and walk back toward the scree slope, to make my way down to the lake, where I will wait for them as they summit without me. I cry as I ‘ski’ down the scree slope. I am heart broken. I sit on a rock at the edge of the lake, patting dust off my boots, wiping the tears from my cheeks… and then I hear a noise. I look back at the scree slope, and see my party coming down. That was way too fast! What happened!? Was everything ok? Worried, I stood up and began to hurry towards them. I met W at the bottom of the scree slope.

“Didn’t you hear me calling you?!” he says excitedly. “I was screaming your name as you were going down the scree slope!” I hadn’t heard a thing except the glass-tinking sounds of the scree as it slid around me! W says, “The summit was only 15 minutes away from where you stopped!”

My god, no.


The “guide” said it was an hour!

“He was wrong!”

So… I was that close? But, but, but if I want to summit now I have to re-climb the scree slope to get there? I have to make you all wait for me AGAIN as I fight up the scree? I…I can’t do it. I cannot re-climb that slope because, really, I have only enough emotional energy in me to get me down this terrible, awful mountain so that I can go pout in the bathtub at home.

I cannot climb the scree slope. I cannot summit.

For almost 10 years I have been haunted by Fisher Peak and the fact that I came so close, and now have to re-climb a mountain to walk 15 minutes to a summit. I cringe when I hear the words ‘Fisher Peak’. The knot of failure in my stomach throbs with undignified laughter when I think back on how pathetic and ruinous my emotional destruction was. I beat myself up even before the mountain had a chance to beat me. I was finished before I began.

10 years later, things are very different. I have learned long ago how destructive I could be toward myself. I have learned that nothing good ever came to me from beating myself up. I have learned that I am a good and decent person, who may make mistakes, but who knows how to learn well from them. Things are very different, indeed…

In 2010, I will SUMMIT Fisher Peak.




I really want to be there when you do!