As he looks out above the clouds, everything makes sense. The beauty of, not only Ecuador, but the earth has never been more clear.
Then I open my eyes to reality.
I am sitting with my back against a palm tree in Riobamba. Sarah and I just spent our last minutes before we set off to Cotopaxi, visualizing ourselves on the summit. Using our final moments before we headed off to our climb for some mental preparation. Which is just as important as physical preparation, if not more. I understood that as we walked away from the park, making our way to the guides house, and adrenalin was pumping though my body. I felt like I drank a pint of coffee, I felt like I could conquer the world, I was ready, and I wanted to start right away.
Four hours later.
We started our climb at 11:30PM. The parking lot we were in was lit by headlamps of every other maniac who was attempting to summit the second tallest volcano in Ecuador that night. Looking up towards the summit, the only thing that was visible were the bobbing lights of people already set out on their adventure.
Seven hours later.
We were at the summit, and the vision I had of myself on top of Cotopaxi the day before could not have been more wrong. There was no beautiful sunrise because the clouds stole any sort of view that would have been possible at the summit. I wasn’t even aware how close we were to the summit, until I looked up and saw the groups ahead of us start to hug. There was however, one thing I got right.
The indescribable, incomparable, satisfaction that I felt while standing almost 20,000 feet above sea level was beautiful, and something you can only feel after accomplishing a seemingly impossible feat that you put everything you have into finishing.
That is really the best way I can describe what I set out to do. Pushing myself to an absolute limit, just to prove I can. Prove to myself that I can. You really are brought to a level of self awareness when the only thing that is making you move your legs, which have been cramping up the last 100 meters, is your will power. The mental strength that I gained, or accessed, makes me feel like I can do anything.
This isn’t a feeling that I had briefly. I didn’t summit, get a rush, and start writing this blog. I rode off this high for weeks.
And yet I haven’t even wrote about the hardest part of this entire climb.
My bursts of adrenalin, which I have been having for the past 12 hoursfinally started running out.
We reached the top, and now we must start the part that I have been dreading subconsciously.
This is the quickest I have ever gone from an absolute high to a total low. The second we started heading down I lost control of my legs. My walking ability was that of a toddler. I tripped over my boots multiple times and despite the fact that out in front of me was the most incredible view of the Avenue of Volcanos you could ask for, I didn’t care. I just wanted to lay down and sleep.
When we finally reached the resting point, I laid on my back, unable to move. Then, after my guide and Sarah unhooked ropes and belts from my half dead body, I sat up and told Sarah, with every bit of sincerity I could muster up in my state, “I am going to throw up.” And being the noble, honest, kind hearted man that I am… I did exactly that. My guide gave Sarah the “are-you-friends-with-this-guy?” type of look. And when I looked up to him, still slightly bent over from throwing up, and gave him a thumbs up… he ran away towards the parking lot.
I felt a lot better.
With a clear mind and I clearer stomach, I was able to try to comprehend what I just accomplished. Turning around I could look back at the volcano, so massive it took up every inch if my vision, and thought,”I was just on top of that.” Even writing it now, it is hard to believe that I really did it.
But I did. And I am obviously cooler than you because of that.