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an unfinished WURL, and the goodness of others

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams, just know that all roads that lead to success have to pass through Hardwork Boulevard at some point.― Eric Thomas 

Knowing that failure is a part of big accomplishments doesn't make dusting yourself off, over and over again, any easier.

Below Catherine's Pass earlier this summer
Last weekend I had the privilege of attempting WURL once again.

...But first, a little preface.
Before WURL, I was fighting a bout of depression. As something I've struggled with off and on since childhood, I thought it best to just ignore it and wait it out, as I usually do. I don't know all the intricate workings of the body, but my low iron levels encouraged lethargy and it seemed to make it worse...and worse, to a new level of low. I felt as Sylvia Plath once referenced, part of a river, and whether that river flowed with sadness or with joy I had no control over it, but I seemed to be swept up in the current of whichever was flowing.

I didn't expect WURL to solve any problems, but I hoped that being high in the mountains, stripped down to bareness, would ground me and help move me forward.

I was wrong. It wasn't WURL that helped me move forward, but people.
In the long run, it isn't mountains that matter. It never is. It's people.

White Baldy covered in clouds, earlier this summer
At 10:45am my husband dropped me off at the Ferguson trailhead, snapped a picture, and drove back to work. Matt Van Horn said he wanted to see me off, so I sat down and waited. It was fun to chat with him (leaving at 11 on the nose!) and he gave me a silver dollar with his birth year to carry. After some chatting and a hug, we parted and I continued up past the climbing areas.

On AF Twins, enjoying what was simply the best morning of the entire summer with friends.

It was warm and pleasant, the leaves crunching underfoot. Much easier to stay on the trail in daylight, and I discovered a trail summitpost had never mentioned, one that wrapped around the mountain and gave me a few bonus miles. Fortunately I never had to bushwhack and simply back tracked to a faint turn off.

As I traveled up, light streamed between the trees. The canyon colors were on fire. I felt reassured. I knew I would be safe. That constant question... Is doing this as a young mother reckless? Had been tormenting me days prior, and today it was soothed. I was supposed to be here. I was supposed to do this. For whatever the reasons, this was where I belonged.
Monte Cristo, in July
Below storm mountain I was feeling warm so I stopped under what I knew would be the last tree, ate a bit, and enjoyed a moment to myself laying in the grass.

Then, up.

I was lonely going up to the Broads Fork Twins. I missed my husband, as I was flooded with memories of doing the ridge with him. The summit was inconsequential.

I continued on, atop Sunset I saw someone on Dromedary and got rather excited, thinking I would have company.... but the figure all in white disappeared before I could scurry over to see who it was.

Goats after Dromedary, 3 of the 10 I had the pleasure of seeing on WURL
I had been dreading the long, airy next two miles to the unnamed 11k peak before Monte Cristo. But this time I got in a rhythm. I saw a family of mountain goats, received silly texts from my kids, and smiled the whole route, singing to myself. I ran out of water not too long after Dromedary, something I'm told may have influenced my later stomach problems. On the long, airy ridge, I was able to move quickly this time, enjoying the motion as much as the ridge. I trundled one large rock (right out from under my hands!) but other than that the navigation was easy with familiarity and I reached Superior an hour earlier than last time. Aaron Williams had met me before the knife edge of Monte Cristo with water, and I quickly consumed a liter.

Off we went.

Baldy with the August wildflowers
It was fun to listen to Aaron's excitement on the ridge. He used a gps track on his watch to help our night-time navigation, and he quickly earned the nick-name of "ridge Nazi." "Hey, I think you should be 10ft over to your left...." "Nope, we went a little too high, the track looks like it's a couple feet to our right..." haha. Thanks Aaron! :)

We met Nate Younger and Ben Light near Twin Lakes Pass, a pleasant surprise! Nate had brought chicken noodle soup, which I inhaled. The bacon from Ben L didn't settle right, and I decided to take a couple hours off of calories. Didn't want the stomach to act up! I enjoyed listening to Ben L talk about the Tahoe 200 (which he had paced 100 miles of) and Nate Y mull over the upcoming Bear 100. It occupied my mind and gave me a pleasant distraction from my churning stomach.

Devil's Castle was.... memorable in the dark. :-) Funny how things that make sense in daylight are illogical and confusing in the dark late at night!

We met my husband Ben at Sugarloaf. The resting time at Devil's had settled my stomach, and I was excited to eat again. Half a burrito and half a red bull and we were off! We had to stop at the Hidden Peak warming hut (can't pass it up heated bathrooms~....) and continued on.

Red Baldy, earlier this year
American Fork Twins were exhausting. This portion of scrambling was the only time I felt muscle fatigue. Even still I enjoyed introducing Ben to new mountains, and we joked and talked and watched the sun rise together.

By Red Stack my stomach was churning, and the nausea was making me unstable. We backed off of the pace. By Red Baldy I was retching. I tried sips of coke, I tried water and salt pills, and I couldn't shake it. When Court and Spence passed us, I forced a smile and cheery attitude. They were moving so well, and I couldn't help but be jealous of their stomachs. They would go on to join the short list of WURL finishers.
my husband and I, taking a selfie because... Oh, I don't know. We're probably proud I stopped crying for a minute.

I was concerned with doing White Baldy, but my husband pushed me on. We received a text from Sam Jewkes, who was waiting at Pfiefferhorn: "We (he and Sarah M) are here til the bitter end!" Fighting back tears from the goodness of people, and feeling overwhelmed with the support of others, I started the White Baldy ridge.

Soon I wasn't fighting tears anymore, I was giving in to them. I was faint, light-headed, retching incessantly and slipping. A knife edge ridge is no place to retch without control, or to feel like passing out. I could only make a couple moves at a time before collapsing down to rest. I wanted to call SAR and give up, but fortunately I am too prideful and too stubborn even when beat to realistically consider it.
crying, retching, mountaineering. I am a true multi-tasker. Happy to be safe off of White Baldy.

I don't want to remember the following 6 hours. Let's just skip that part. I claim PTSD.

I had a lot of emotions to work out after that.
Gratitude for safety.
Joy from the experience.
Memories of dancing across ridges in the sky...
To be shut down my an arbitrary upset stomach.
Mountain goats, 24 summits, laughter...

I was over-stimulated.

The kindness of people didn't stop after the attempt.
Message after message came in.
"Are you ok?"
"Jared Campbell failed twice on WURL before he got it."
"You inspire me."
"I once tried (XX amount) of WURL. It was so hard! What you did was incredible!"
"You always inspire me."

The messages continued.
Day after day, little notes of encouragement.
As my body healed, so did my mind.

I'm at peace with it all.
It's not the mountains that matter, and sometimes it's not the mountains that inspire. It's people.
People, some that I know well, others I've never even met, nurtured me, coddled me.
They inspire me.
You inspire me.

Red Baldy, with the remainder of WURL in the  background.

Dreaming big you fail a lot. It's not easy to dust yourself off again, over and over.
This time I learned I don't have to dust myself off alone.
This time I didn't even do any of the dusting.

So, thank you.
I'll be back for WURL, next year. :)



  1. Beautifully written. So proud of you for what you did and coming out of it ok. There is always another chance, if you'll take it. The mountains aren't going anywhere.


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