“Did you know what you were getting yourself into?” he asks, looking over his shoulder from ahead of me.
No, of course not. Do I ever fully realize what I get myself into?
My head is pounding. My heart traveled up from my chest through my throat and has now landed in my head, pounding at my temple. Am I supposed to feel my heartbeat in my forehead?
It’s Thursday and I’m climbing Ben Arthur, otherwise known as the Cobbler, which overlooks Loch Long. I know I’m not the most fit person in the world, but I’ve climbed mountains before. I should be able to do this.
I did my research beforehand. Ben Arthur is 884 meters (2,900 feet), about 5.5 miles long and on average takes four hours. I’ve hiked Old Rag in Virginia, which is 1,001 meters (3,284 feet), 9.1 miles and took me and my friends the good part of a summer’s day to complete. Old Rag is higher and longer than Ben Arthur, so I figured that if I could complete that and survive, then I could survive the Cobbler.
I definitely survived, but barely. I genuinely thought I was going to die at one or two or twenty moments.
Slippery rocks and snow and ice and wind gusts that try to knock you off your feet are the perfect combination for near death experiences. The fog hindered our visibility, so we could neither see the top of the mountain til we reached it, nor could we see the bottom until we were already there. It’s terrifying scrambling down rocks for what feels like hours and to only see cloud above you and cloud below you. It feels like the twilight zone.
I have never been that scared in my entire life. We came down the face of the mountain, on the incredibly rocky side, wind gusts so bad that I literally had to lie down on a rock and hug it for dear life until the wind decided to cool its tits for a bit. My legs were actually shaking from how anxious I was.
Have you seen that movie Everest? It was like that, except with oxygen.
People I’ve talked to have climbed Ben Arthur and they make it sound like a walk in the park. Good for them, but this was one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) things I’ve done in my life. I’m writing this two days post-hike, and my legs are absolutely killing me. I have never been this sore, so my body agrees with me when I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
This hike was routine for some people, including the Glaswegian we met at the peak with expensive hiking gear who has climbed Ben Arthur multiple times and decided to do it that day just because he “had the day off”. But for me, it might as well have been Mount Everest.
I’m weak, but I’m getting stronger. I may get tired, but at least I never give up. I’m proud I can say that.