After hiking about four miles or so, the last two of which were a grueling uphill battle, Laura and I reached the “false” summit of Mt. Bailey. We were tired, hungry and light-headed from the effort and 8,000-foot altitude. We settled down in the craggy rocks to eat our lunch. The wind was chilly and nipped at us.
Laura and I were beat and looking across to the real summit we were overwhelmed by the prospect of walking any further. However, a returning hiker said that it was worth the effort and Laura’s dad encouraged us to keep on going since we were so close. Foolishly, I agreed and urged Laura on, too.
The ugly moonscape of the mountain’s saddle was a dangerous slide of shale, sand and gravel. We had to walk or scoot along, depending upon our comfort level. In other words, I was on my butt a lot. At some points we could grab onto the rock walk (see ridge in photo: we were on the left side of it) for stability, but not the whole time. Unfortunately, at all points a mistake would have meant tumbling and sliding down the mountain to certain doom. With each step the ground gave way a bit under my foot. It was almost paralyzing.
With much coaxing and encouragement from my comrades, I made my slow, trembling way to the summit. That is, I made my way until I reached a hurdle that proved too much. In the rock wall, to which I clung tremulously, there was a spot where I had to hop up and continue on the other side. Mr. Langdon helped me to do so. But when I got there I saw a slide of gravel and sand rising up at an angle that was simply too perilous. Even if I could make it up that slide, the prospect of having to return down it was more terrifying than I could handle. I told them I could not go on. Mr. Langdon helped me back to the other side. Sitting on a small ledge in the rock wall, the ground sliding away very steeply from me, I clung to the shale and broke into sobs. Dear Laura quickly put her arms around my shaking form and comforted me. It was simply too much for this flatlander to bear.
After the worst of the fit was through, she left me to wait for my husband and her brother, who were returning from the summit. My breath was fast and unsteady and I was dreading the return trip to the false summit. But it had to be done and I did it with the help of the aforementioned men.
As we made our way back down, I was first motivated by my desire to be back below the timberline, then by my hunger for the Honey Dijon Kettle Chips waiting in the truck. Though I did not make it to the top of Mt. Bailey, I came pretty close, and I am proud of my achievement. It was good to be challenged with something so elemental and physical.