The mountains have been snowy and inhospitable for about four months now. And it's been killing me. When I hike Bear or Green, or run around Lyons, I can't help but think about everything Lila and I did this past summer. All the mountains we climbed. Without fail, one of my favorite mountain days comes to mind. The Citadel and Pettingel Peak, right off I-70.
I know you've all heard these words, but fear can be a funny thing. It's a great thing. Maybe not at the time, but ultimately, there are always lessons learned from fearful experiences. Sometimes it's a rightful fear, a fear that stops you from doing something dumb, and saves your life. Other times, it's a misplaced fear. It hinders your ability to do something that you know you can do. Lucky for me, it hasn't really been something that I've ever struggled with. I'm pretty confident in and aware of my skill levels. But this peak... this peak scared me.
The standard route up the 13,000 foot Citadel was a third class scramble. And that was it's tame side. I had wanted to link it up with Pettingel that sat just north of the Citadel. There was a catch though. Tagging both peaks via the connecting ridge involved a 5.4 chimney, that most people rappelled. Being the relatively lazy and semi-stubborn girl that I am, I elected to go for it. With a small dog and no rope. I can honestly say that I've only been that nervous a handful of times in my life.
One autumn morning, I trudged up the south sloped of Pettingel, and scrambled it's beautiful third class ridge with Lila following close behind. As I stood on the top, I apprehensively eyed the Citadel, which looked terribly un-inviting. But I was intrigued and determined enough to at least give it a go. Lila and I descended about five hundred feet and began an engaging fourth class scramble up towards the summit of my next objective.
Soon enough, we reached an obvious fifth class chimney. I peeked around both sides to see if I could bypass it, not because I doubted the few trip reports that I had read, but because I was beginning to doubt myself. I doubted my ability to carry a small dog up what would be considered a technical rock climb, and as soon as that seed had been planted, it grew faster than I could ever imagine. Before I had a chance to turn, I shoved the small sixteen pound mutt into my backpack, and I cautiously made the first few moves. The climbing was easy, but I was so alone. And so far out of my comfort zone. AND Lila's life was in my trembling hands.
I contemplated turning around and climbing back up the previous peak and descending the same way. The fun way. But as I looked down, I realized that I was far less comfortable down climbing what I had just come up. I breathed deep, forcing the unfamiliar fear to the back of my mind, and continued to crawl my way up. Fingers in deep, reassuring jugs, and the dependable rubber of my shoes pressing so hard against the sides of the chimney that my quads burned the next day.
I grasped the final hold of the gully, forearms pumped from over-gripping a 5.4, glanced back down, and sobbed a cry of relief. While trying to remain calm, and remind myself that I still needed to hold on, I lumbered to the summit of the Citadel. I took my backpack off, and freed Lila, who had apparently been napping the whole time. And I cried. I danced on the top, and I cried some more. I didn't realize how fearful I could be. I certainly didn't realize that that kind of fear was something that I could conquer.
It's hard to look back on a day and remember that fear, and that tremendous sense of accomplishment after you did something that some people wouldn't blink an eye at. But I'm trying to be more vulnerable and open, and I'm okay with admitting that I was terrified of a fifty foot pitch of 5.4. And I'm equally proud to say that I did it.