It was three miles before I realized my many mistakes.

I was sweating through my cotton T-shirt and a breeze was picking up, sending shivers across my body. My overnight pack was too long for my small frame and jammed with items no longer worth their weight on my back. I hadn’t brought my own map so I kept looking ahead, searching for the spot where we’d set up our tents and willing it to come soon.

This was my first time on a sizable mountain. I was 29 with hundreds of hiking miles under my belt but no idea what to do on a 12,280-foot snowy mountain where a storm was blowing in.

I was with four strangers and two men I’d met four months earlier when I’d quit my life in Southern California and moved to Washington State in search of a better balance between work and play.

Their names were Scott Schissel and Jay Griffin and they’d taken me on with no complaints, leading me on snowshoeing adventures and long hikes and answering my never-ending stream of questions about the outdoors.


I’d immediately declared I wanted to climb Mount Rainier, which at 14,441 feet was the highest in the state and a training ground for larger peaks like Denali.

They suggested I start with something less technical like Mount Adams, which is how I found myself trudging up a snowfield with more than 50 pounds digging painfully into my collarbones and hips.

I made more mistakes at camp. My feet were so cold that I layered two pairs of thick socks, effectively cutting off the circulation in my toes and making them colder. I’d brought dehydrated meals but I couldn’t eat the whole thing because the high sodium level made me feel queasy.

But I was on a mountain. I was carrying my own stuff, doing what I most wanted to be doing and I was finding that balance I desperately needed. I mentioned my mistakes to no one but I filed them away so as to not repeat them.


image2I didn’t get that summit. The storm whipped up 60 mph winds and whiteout conditions so we turned back. Within two months, I was heading for the summit of Mount Olympus, a 50-mile roundtrip hike that included glacier travel, rock climbing and rappelling.

I successfully stood on that summit, high above the clouds, and promptly fell in love. It’s been an ongoing love affair since then and my top priority.

In the mountains, I’m the best version of myself. I’m strong, confident and at peace. Mountaineering helps me find myself, define myself and grow myself. It’s where I’m challenged, focused and grounded.

It’s been four years since I began mountaineering and I’m a completely different person. I’m finally who I was meant to be and where I belong.

So, go climb your mountain, whatever it may be.