Thursday, January 28, 2010

DAY SIX: Tongariro and Mount Doom

We got up at 5:45 a.m. and headed to Mount Doom in a big ol’ bus. It was this eerie, foggy, damp weather, exactly how the lands surrounding Mordor would be. The Dead Marshes. The Tongariro crossing is supposed to take about 6 hours without stopping. That does NOT include going off the trail to summet Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom). Piece of cake, right?
We got hiking and the fog was so thick we couldn’t really see a lot. 

We had a map and got to the point where we should turn off and climb Mt. Doom even though we couldn’t see it at all. I will say this: if we had been able to see the top of Mt. Nguaruhoe from the bottom, much fewer people would have attempted it. I think I would have still gone but our group had a lot of people that had to turn back halfway.

Now, I’ve said this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. “Let me ‘splain. No, it is too much. Let me sum up.”
  1. We couldn’t see our goal. With the heavy fog visibility was probably 25 meters. The end was nowhere in sight and as the hiking/sliding/slipping time wracked up we joked that this was hell. Doomed to hike forever without ever reaching the summit.
  2. The terrain seemed impossible. It started out as a firm sand and as we went up it only got harder with each step. It was like walking on a sandy/rocky beach…turned on a 45 degree angle, literally. It was supposed to take 2-2.5 hours return but it took our group 2 hours to get to the top. Near the upper part, for every one step taken (which took all your energy to do), you slid back two. We found out later that there was a more stable foundation on a nearby ridge but WE COULDN”T SEE IT, and we went up the “hardest way,” as people later told us.
  3. The elements. It was cold, windy, and wet up there. I was prepared with warm clothes but didn’t bring what I needed most. Gloves. My hands were freezing but the worst part was trying to use them on the sharp lava rocks. The slope was so steep that it was easier to put your hands down and crawl, but the rocks were sharp and my hands were cold. You know how it hurts to hit your fingers on something when they’re cold? That’s kind of how it felt.
  4. It was legitimately dangerous. Although most of our scrambling was on tennis ball sized volcanic rock and smaller, there were definitely bigger ones around. You’d think they would be good footing so many of us would step on them only to fall on our face and send a boulder barreling down the mountain. Not being able to see well or move very vast in the fog and sand made it difficult to dodge them as well. If you sent a rock flying you screamed “ROCK” and then every person behind you would have to pass along the message. There were a few people in our group that got hit by a rock and a few very close calls with huge, fast moving boulders. It. Was. Scary. 

Welcome to life, I suppose. Sometimes we can’t see our goal, the task seems impossible, the uncontrollable elements are brutal, and you are in some kind of danger. However, another huge thing I learned this day was that you can do more than you think you can.
We reached the top, which was not cool because you couldn’t see anything. You could hardly make out the crater’s edge. I ate nearly half my food up there since I had NO energy left and was losing calories fast to shivering. We started heading back down which was faster, yes, but still hard on the quads and lower back.
We were pretty much surfing down the mountain on a sea of rocks and sand. 

When we reached the bottom my gas tank was empty, I was dehydrated, tired, and there was still about 5 hours of hiking to go.  I ate a bit more of my food to get me going and began walking.
I kinda felt like this

After a long wasteland (to Mordor-esque) and another tall, steep climb, we were able to finally look back and get a clear view of the Mountain we had scaled.
It. Was. Huge. 

That moment was the first time all day I was kinda glad I had dominated it. Look at that thing. I made it to the top and I’m proud of myself for doing it.

The rest of the hike was amazing. Yes, it was foggy most of the time but it was cool. I was in tired, weak, and even in pain for the last 11 km of the hike (yes it was only 19.4 km without mt. doom) but I’m glad I did it. There were times I thought I may not be able to keep walking or keep stepping down these huge steps. Every step is rattling my bones. But we finally reached the end. I was looking awful, worn down, kind of grumpy from dehydration (even though I drank 4 liters of water throughout the 9 hours) and ready for a nap. Despite all that, I was still able stand, amazed, at the majesty and beauty of the Earth.

No comments: