Our Little Everest – Week 11-13
Hello again!! I know the blogs have been few and far between. I feel like at the beginning of our journey, blogging was a really great night time activity that felt like a homework assignment (in a good way). It gave me a task to do that allowed me to feel productive by sharing our story and writing it all down in words. It was also allowed me to feel connected with everyone back at home, in Denmark, Scotland, Israel (hi Maya :D), and of course California, because when only given a few hours every once in a while at a café for wifi, catching up with everyone through phone calls and messaging is impossible! So blogging is nice to allow everyone to stay in the loop with what Paul and I have been up to and where we are.
As the months have gone on (3 to be exact!!), Paul and I have really cozied into our van life and have gotten into a good routine, where blogging hasn’t fit in as much. We have also REALLY gotten hooked on a great audio book series called The Dresden Files. It’s about a wizard detective in a world full of vampires, werewolves, and demons where most humans don’t really believe in the supernatural. There are 15 books and we’ve cruised through 5 of them already. The first two were good intros to the series but the 3rd one was where the addiction really began. We turn it on when we’re driving, cooking dinner, doing dishes, just all the time basically. And when I’m listening to an audio book, I really can’t be doing much else or I completely tune out and we have to rewind a bunch, hence the real reason why the blogs haven’t been nearly as frequent as they used to.
But today we have taken a rest day, our fingers and muscles are tired, and I felt that it was the perfect day to write a blog and catch up. It’s a beautiful fall day here in Spain; we’re parked at a picnic area by a stream and I’m sitting at a picnic bench with the mid-morning sun warming my back. We’re going to go on a run in a little bit and then head into town for some grocery shopping and wifi.
Since my last blog, Paul and I have met up with one of my best friends, Maya, and her boyfriend, Naveh, who were traveling from Israel on a little vacation to Spain. It worked out perfectly because they had rented a car from Barcelona to hike in the Spanish Pyrenees for a few days. Paul and I met up with them there and we did two beautiful day hikes, both hikes meandered next to streams in two different valleys. The trails passed by many waterfalls among thousands of trees lit with the magical colors of fall.
They were both full day hikes, but nothing too strenuous which was really nice to be able to relax, walk, and catch up. It was also great for the first hike because we were all a bit hung over after finishing four bottles of wine the night before. Hehe J but overall it was just a really nice and cozy time together. And so reassuring to know that although we live far apart, we’ll always find a way to see each other, through all our chapters in life.
After they left, Paul and I stayed in the area, bought a guidebook and climbed for a few days up at a lake. We were right in amongst a forest full of pine trees, and the smells of pine with the view of the lake really reminded me of summer time in Lake Tahoe. I loved it 🙂 and the climbing was really fun too.
The picture above is the valley that we parked in, you can even see Ben in the lower left corner 😀
On the third or fourth day there, we woke up to a morning of thick fog and misty rain. Not ideal climbing weather at all. So I planted the seed in Paul’s mind to maybe go for a little rainy-day hike instead!
I’ll tell you guys though, I’m the hiking lover of the two of us, and sometimes I have to convince Paul to come on a hike with me. So here’s kind of how it went, “I’m going to the bathroom, but I want you to think positively about going on a cozy little hike with me up to a refugio. We can even bring warm coffee and a picnic to look forward to at the top and then when we’re back we’ll warm up in Ben. I’m going to come back in a few minutes and you can tell me what you think.” I came back a few minutes later and was pleasantly surprised to find that Paul was totally up for it and even suggested the idea of hiking to the refugio for a picnic and then continuing a few hours further to get up to a 3000 meter peak. I was so excited! Paul was in and he even thought of a longer hike we could do! Without even thinking twice, I said YES!
8 hours later, I found myself hysterically crying at the top of the peak, surrounded by deep snow, cliffs on either side, in a thick cloud of grey fog around us, scared for my life that we wouldn’t make it down.
It was 6pm and the sun would set in about an hour, not that we could even see the sun for the thick cloud we had been in the entire day, but it would be getting dark. We had one headlamp, no food left, and no idea how long it would take to get us down to the bottom. You could say we were a tad bit unprepared.
We have this really great app called maps.me that allows you to download maps of an area so you can still navigate when not connected to wifi or data. And the maps are crazy, they show everything, even the smallest dirt trails and little bridges, with distances, time estimates and elevation gain. It is amazing!! I can highly recommend it, except for the time estimation does not account for elevation gain. So it will say you can hike 6 km in an hour, even if there is a 1000m gain in elevation (not exactly accurate). So when we had looked at the map when planning the hike, it said we would be back in Ben in around 6-7 hours. And for some reason, we believed that!! Ah. If I could go back and just think things through a little bit, we would NOT have been up there at 6pm, still having to come down 1,300 meters to the parking lot.
Thankfully, Paul was probably the best person to have along with me, he was completely confident that we would make it down safe and sound the entire time and his great navigation skills really saved us. I call it ‘Our Little Everest’ because what we climbed up really felt like it. I had never experienced anything like that before, where we were climbing up almost vertical terrain, knee-deep in snow, grabbing on to whatever rock that stuck out of the snow to pull us up. I kept having terrible images of one of our feet slipping out and shooting us back down the mountain. I was terrified. In hindsight, I know that if I was mentally prepared for what we were going to be doing that day, I wouldn’t have freaked out and I would have been able to enjoy it so much more. But because I really had no clue that we would be hiking to a crazy peak surrounded by deep snow and not getting to the top until 6pm, yes I really did panic when we got to the top, knowing we were only half way through with our adventure and still somehow had to get down.
The peak was terrifying; we had to slide on our butts along the ridge to get to the trail about 50m further along which would eventually get us back to the parking lot. On top of it, climbing down is always the scariest part and is always the slowest for me.
Luckily though, we had climbed up on the north face which is always the more treacherous side because it doesn’t get any sun, so when we slid on our butts down the south-east facing side, it was more gravelly and not nearly as intimidating as the north face was. We hiked/slid down as fast as we could, while keeping an eye on the map to make sure we were following in the right direction. We had to continuously make quick decisions on which way we thought the cairns and small dirt trail was taking us, because we knew that time was not on our side that day. We hiked down about 2 hours in the dark, using my head lamp and phone flashlight, hoping to not drain my phone battery since Paul’s phone had already died and we needed it for the maps.
It wasn’t until 10pm that we got down to a normal road and I could finally take a deep breath. It started to rain as we finished the hike back down to Ben, but nothing could really dampen my mood knowing that we had both made it down in one piece. It was a crazy adventure, and probably an adventure that I should have listened to my heart and my gut feeling telling me that we should just turn around and take the long way back rather than go up and over a 3000m peak. But we made it; with no pictures really to tell the tale because there was no way I was in the mindset to snap a few pics along the way when I didn’t even know that I would make it down to tell the tale! The pictures I have shown are all before it even got to the intense part, and before we had even seen the peak we would be climbing up to!
When we got back to Ben, we bought some data on Paul’s phone so we could message our moms. I was thinking that for all the terrible feelings I was having that day, my mom was probably sensing them and I wouldn’t be able to sleep without telling her where I was and that we were alive.
But anyways, it was quite the adventure, and I’m not saying that mountaineering isn’t in my future, I just think a little more research and preparation is in need when hiking up something that high. Which I might sound like I’m exaggerating a little bit because I realize that Everest Base Camp is about 1000m higher than the peak we climbed, but it was also the elevation gain, the snowy terrain, the lack of mental and physical preparation, and the weather that made it seem so intense.
Since then, Paul and I have gone down in elevation where the sun is out, beating on our backs while we climb some pretty cool conglomerate walls that were a part of Gaudi’s inspiration for his architecture in Barcelona. It’s fun with a little switch in rock type. Never climbed anything like it before; it looks like hundreds of thousands of rocks cemented together to form the cliffs. We’re enjoying the warmth of the rocks and being able to take a dip in the stream afterwards. 🙂
No crazy adventures planned in the near future but will definitely keep you guys updated 🙂 Talk soon!