My phone is downstairs and I’m too tired to go get it and share pictures with you, so I swiped this one from an image file online. I promise I’ll share some hiking photos later this week.
Jeff and I headed to the mountain on Saturday morning to do the major climb I’ve wanted to do for over 6 months. Jeff has climbed Sandia about 5 times now and is quite speedy at it, usually around 2 1/2 to 3 hours. We hoped that together, we’d reach the top in about 6 hours or so. We started off at 7:30 so we’d enjoy the cooler temps as it was to be around 72 degrees that day and I was nervous, because hey, it’s a mountain! But I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I wish I’d stop thinking of that statement, because I’m getting tired of seeing what “the worst” is.
Jeff talked me out of wearing a light jacket. Let’s dwell on that for a moment, shall we?
Also? He said, and I quote, “There’s ONE rock fall to cross that’s pretty challenging.”
Here’s what I’ve finally learned about my husband after 30 years of marriage. He is unobservant. UNobservant. To the nth degree.
The climb is 7 1/2 miles, if you listen to Jeff’s math. But no, it was 8 miles actually, from where we parked. That extra 1/2 mile is HARD when you’re not expecting it, and that’s not even the half of what happened.
I have to say upfront, that it was a lovely experience and that I’m a lot stronger and tougher than I thought I was. Also? Not such a fun time climbing for half a day. Not so much.
When we started off, the first 5 miles, I was doing so great and feeling so wonderful that Jeff kept asking if I needed to slow down because I was going awfully fast. It felt super. No problem at all. I was mocking those marathoners that I hear eat handfuls of M&M’s to keep their energy up. I’m saying, “Why can’t they just eat healthy snacks like dried fruit?”
Yeah. After 7 hours I was dying for some M&M’s and the sight of more dried fruit was nauseating.
As I said, the first 5 hours was wonderful. Then we hit the 5th circle of hell, aka, the “one rock fall”.
The rock fall is where the mountain let loose and a bazillion rocks tumbled over the side. It’s pretty challenging to make your way across it, but I had some of those perfectly excellent hiking poles, (Which saved me time and time again and made the whole day at least 50% easier. If you don’t have poles, GET SOME. Bless you, Jamie, for reminding me that I actually owned some poles that I’d never tried out!) so those helped a lot.
Then the ONE rock fall? All of a sudden there was another and another and another and another.
Jeff finally said, “Hmm, I thought there weren’t anymore.”
I finally just held up a hand and said, “Don’t even bother. Don’t say another word.”
I knew there would be countless rock falls by then. I think there were 7 in all. That one mile stretch took about 1 1/2 hours of grueling climbing. And it was COLD! The wind was blowing cold the whole time, and at the top it was only about 35 degrees and blowing COLD. Argh!
Jeff said, “This is the last switchback.”
After he’d said that half a dozen times, to save him both the embarrassment and the pain of me murdering him, I asked him to PLEASE stop saying that! I tried really hard not to count how many more switchbacks there were after that.
(There were 6 more. I know. I’m mean when I’m tired.)
Then Jeff said we would reach a “big meadow” and that the last mile was so easy, “almost flat”.
I’m not going to say he’s a big fat liar. I’m just saying he is UNOBSERVANT.
The meadow? It was a piece of grassland about 15 feet by 9 feet. The last mile? It was still climbing until the last 1/4 mile or so.
Then the fun begins.
We reached the top and were going to take the tram down the side of the mountain. I think it’s the longest tram in all of the USA though I’m not sure. We bought our tickets and ate some more dried fruit, trying to get some sort of calories in our stomachs. Jeff dumped the excess water out of my Camel Bak and then came in and sat beside me to wait.
He looked over said, “Oh no!”
I don’t know why, but in that moment, I knew. “The car,” I said.
We had parked the stupid car 3 1/2 miles away from the tram! How lame is that????
We rode the tram down the mountain side in a gusty wind, which normally terrifies me, but I was so wiped out at having reached the peak in Four and a Half HOURS (yeehaw!!) that I felt like if we dropped to our deaths, at least it would be a break from my exhaustion.
Seriously. Together, we almost never see the clear path until we’ve already done everything wrong. We don’t function well together in some areas. We had decided that we’d go out for dinner at a Middle Eastern place we know in downtown Albuquerque. We were ravenous at that point, but we got that thought stuck in our heads. So even though we realized we were 3 1/2 miles from our car and that we had to get to it somehow, we just thought, well, we’ll eat dinner out tonight. We’ve burned 1400+ calories or so, we can go out. No real, conscious thoughts of us GETTING to the car and the effort that might require and how starving we might be by the time we finally got to the place.
We got to the bottom of the tram line and thought, OK then, we’ll walk the 3 1/2 mile trail back to the car. How hard can it be, right? We walked it in March and it wasn’t all that hard.
Selective memory, folks. Selective memory.
That 3 1/2 miles was so very hard and at least 2 miles of it was some serious climbing. And worse? We had only Jeff’s Camel Bak to share between us because NO, we didn’t think to add more water when we reached the bottom of the tram. And NO, we didn’t think to get a snack to tide us over until we went out to dinner because really, “This is going to be a short walk.”
Oh, sweet Lord it was hard. We were already so tired from CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN, and when the last of Jeff’s water ran out about 1 1/2 miles from the car, I admit, I shed a tear. I was so hungry and thirsty and we were still climbing.
Every single time we’d come to a turn, we expected it the be “the turn” where we would be able to see the rest area and our car. And it never was. Never, ever, ever.
Finally after we walked around the fourth “mountain” I started laughing and couldn’t stop. But it was a puny, whiney, “I’m dying” kind of laughter. All I could think about was that movie “Alive,” and how they’d get to the top of a mountain and all they could see was more mountains.
At the tail end of the endless climb, I gave up. I was dragging my poles behind me like a little kid, trying to keep from crying. Jeff told me later that he heard my poles dragging in the sand but he was too tired to turn around and look. I was having fantasies of dropping dead where I stood and I wondered if I’d tumble over the side of the mountain if I died right there. I wondered if a mountain lion was stalking me and I didn’t care.
Jeff rounded a corner ahead of me and didn’t wait up for me and I thought, well, there it is. He’s left me. I’m going to die.
I KNOW! I was caRAZY at that point!
Instead, the dear man remembered we still had a sweet, sweet orange in the backpack. He whipped it out and peeled it while I was coming up to meet him and we ate that bad boy down in 20 seconds flat and got a bit of liquid and some carbs and then, oh happy day, the trail headed down for 1 mile, straight to the car.
And then of course we were all renewed and happy and all, “Oh, that wasn’t so hard at all,” once we realized we weren’t going to die.
Still, all in all, I did the mountain in 4 1/2 hours, which is really GREAT and then went on to do another 2 hours of uphill hiking, for a total of 11+ miles of hiking on Saturday. I can say honestly, I’ve never done anything so hard in my life. Even giving birth without drugs, twice, was easier than that.
I’m not sure why people climb mountains. It’s true, they’re awfully pretty and while you’re climbing them you see some incredibly stuff. The first 2 hours I was taking hundreds of picture. The last two hours I was saying, “I don’t CARE about the freakin’ view! I want some water and some FOOD!”
When we got home I made conversation for 10 minutes with our daughter and went up to take a bath. I lay down at 5 pm just to “rest” and I swear to you, I could not move a muscle. After an hour I told myself I should at least turn over, or get up and pee, or something. But no. I couldn’t move, except to breath. I fell asleep and slept for 12 hours straight. And that was my grand adventure on Saturday.