As I sit in my chair and sip on my tea, I look outside at the foggy city and the Pacific Ocean. I am back home in Lima and I have these blanks pages in front of me, where I start narrating my experience hiking Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Exactly one month ago, on June 4th 2018, we put our backpacks on and set off to acclimatize and reach new heights.
We acclimatized rather quickly and well: it took us a few days to reach base camp and we felt amazing. We were all prepared, physically and mentally, for this expedition and the weather was in our favour. On June 8th , we woke up at 1am, got dressed, had breakfast, and set out into the night. As started walking up, the only thing that mattered was your headlamp, your steps, and your breath. We went uphill for several hours, and slowly the sun started to rise. The view was one to take your breath away, I remember thinking to myself: “This is why I do this: so that I can see the sunrise at the other end of the world and be grateful for my existence”. That day, we walked upward for at least 1000m. We were the second team to arrive at the summit, which became our private lookout for about 45 minutes. With no one else at 5642m.a.s.l, we admired the views of the Caucasus Mountains and nothing else mattered.
All of our experiences teach us something: may it be positive or negative. What helps us grow is the way we apply these teachings afterward.
Sharing them with others is another way to assimilate them, so here are two important lessons I learned during this expedition.
The Power of your Mind
The walk back down was approximately 2000m, which was not only physically challenging but also mentally demanding. I was tired, hungry, my face was burnt by the beaming sun, and I wanted to arrive. It could have been so easy for my mind to stay caught up in this whirl of thoughts. Meditation has taught me not to allow this to happen. It was about enjoying that specific moment, exactly the way it was, without wanting to change it, and without looking forward to the future. It was about being grateful for the amazing weather we had and about being able to go beyond my own limitations. Because in the end, the only thing that gets in your
way is your own mind.
Food is your Fuel
No matter how well you prepare before these expeditions, there are always unexpected and changing conditions (of the weather, your body, circumstances, etc). Your ability to adapt is one of the most important qualities you need. There were no difficulties per se on summit day, so I relaxed and enjoyed the ride upward. I was focused on my steps and my breath; I was taking in the moment, the weather, and the views. I was having an amazing time. So much that I did not realize how long it had been since I had last eaten. Once my head started hurting, or my legs felt weak, I would understand: I need food, it is my fuel. Since you burn more energy when you are in altitude, your food intake may be different: you may need to eat more often, or in larger quantities. Therefore, I learned that being attentive to my food intake and knowing when/how much to eat become crucial to keep your body going for hours.
Finally, I got scabs on my nose and burnt lips for the next few days, but I felt light and delighted. I had not only reached the summit of Europe’s highest mountain, but I had challenged myself and learned about my body. In the end, it is not only about getting closer to the clouds and arriving at the top; it’s about surpassing our own limits, doing your absolute best, and most of all, learning to adapt to changes.
Read more about preparing for these kinds of expeditions or tips that can help you on your hike.