Guest Blog by Ola Mikail
It's the journey....
How many times on the trail do we hear those words?
No avid hiker who I am aware of sets out to not summit, but sometimes circumstances get in the way.
When I was hiking San Gorgonio, also nicknamed Old Greyback, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet, I definitely came down with a case of summit fever, as it was not my first attempt.
Somewhere at around mile six on the way up, I rolled my ankle, and I had hours to go to the top, i.e, nickname Trail Turtle (I can laugh at that sometimes). I was determined to summit that day because honestly I never wanted to see that mountain again. Too many attempts on that mountain had me disheartened. I used my friend as an excuse. She would be waiting for me at the summit, not knowing I had turned around, so I sludged on. She was so elated to see me when I finally arrived I felt like I had made the right decision and my ankle was feeling better. I had the shortest lunch known to any hiker. It was windy and cold and we wanted to finish during daylight.
After a very happy photo opp, we headed down, making great time, and I was so thrilled that I had “sucked it up." Three or four miles from the trailhead on the way down, a very scared hiker caught up with us.
He had never hiked before in his life and his friends had left him alone (A story for another day). He was sure they were at the trailhead parking lot waiting for him. He slowed us down a lot, Trail Turtle Junior. He was scared and fatigued so we slowed down to his level and before long we knew we weren’t going to finish during daylight. We ended up sharing my one headlamp for the three of us and all of us need our cellphone flashlights to further light the way.
I guess I wasn’t the only one with summit fever that day, although I didn’t know all the details of his journey. He probably shouldn’t have been on that mountain or at least not completed the trek, the last training hike before a hiker attempts to hike Mt. Whitney.
Was I wrong to have summit fever that day?
Yes and no. I could have risked additional injury to an already weak ankle, but I was there to help a fellow hiker in need, so to this day I still don’t have a definitive answer.
This very humble story is to just alert you to what can happen even when you think you have all the experience in the world. I had been hiking for at least 7 years when this happened. I still haven’t summitted Mt. Whitney, but I know with that beast of a mountain my summit fever will certainly be cured. Happy trails.