Are you sure I can do this? – me
Yes, you can! Just follow the instructions that I gave you on self-arrest using the poles. – Stranger
Still, I am kind of nervous. – me
Don’t be. – Stranger
I grabbed the pole on the bottom with the left hand and above it with the right hand. Then I thought, I can do it. Then I just let the gravity do all the trick. Now, I am sliding down the glacier on my bum from the top of Mount Timpanogos towards the Emerald Lake. Since its very steep, I was accelerating downwards too fast. I was using the poles to control the acceleration. At first few seconds, my attempts to control the acceleration didn’t work but I quickly got hold of it. I descended around 300 feet downward. That feeling was awesome. It felt a lot like skiing but with your bum 😉 Then after that point, we started shoe skiing. Just trying to slide downwards with the shoe. After like 15 minutes, we got to the Emerald Lake. The lake was kind of frozen and was far below its normal depth. We found some big rocks marked by meteorologists and environmentalist to track the position of the glacier. My backpack was inside the hut at the high camp. I rushed towards to get it. Also, I asked the stranger to hand me my crampons and water bottle. I give those stuff before my descend from the glaciers so I could use my both hands for good control.
My backpack was round 25+ Kgs as I brought all the gears for camping. But after meeting that person, I felt like I need to get back home. So we started heading towards the trail-head. He shared his amazing adventures skiing down from all the mountains and hills nearby. I was enchanted by his stories. Among numerous stories, this story of his was an instant hit.
“I hiked to the Mount Timp early in the morning with my cross-country ski gears. I think it was in the middle of January. My friends knew that I had planned my trip to Timp. Latter than then when I was skiing down the front face of Timp, a news crew from the helicopter were filming my skiing adventure. I didn’t pay much attention at that time as I was focused on getting down the mountain as it was very challenging. Next day, my friends have recorded the clip from the new channel where I was skiing down the front face of Timp. Now, after watching the clip I was a bit uneasy by observing it was a heck of a dangerous adventure. But it was normal feeling when I skied down yesterday.” – Stranger
All of his stories were of this sort of adventures. For me, his life was something I have only seen in movies. He was a photographer by profession. So, his main job was to travel the world to capture moments for media agencies, newspaper, magazines, and other clients. He usually travels to more than two countries in a single month for this work. While he is not working, he goes out for adventures. I was amazed and thrilled by this life experience and the adventures he has done. People often say, “It’s better to walk alone, than with someone going in the wrong direction.” I felt the same vibes. I always have met amazing people when I am on an adventure all alone.
The upper region of the mountain had lots of snowfields as you can see in the picture above. While coming up the trail, I met a group of people from salt lake. They were all Mormons and were friendly to talk to. We went up the trail sharing stories. They told me about their preparation they had put on last month to climb the Mount Ranier, in Washington state. They took a mountaineering classes for a week and then started climbing small peaks with Crampons, Iceaxe, Harness, and ropes. They went to those peaks all prepared and estimate what they would encounter in Mount Ranier. Seeing their dedication and efforts felt really uplifting. My experience with snowfields was positive so I was never afraid to go through them. While crossing one of the snowfields, one of the girls from the group fell down sliding. The fall was around 50 feet. Seeing that, the other girl just stopped in between and got down on her knees. None of the group members went down to help her. Feeling confident that I can cope with the snowfields, I went down to help her. I planted my poles in the snow so she could grab it and stand on her feet. It took some motivation and time for her to get on her feet. After that, I use my feet to make a deep footprint on snow so it would be easier for her to move forward. Made around 50 footprints one at a time and moving the poles in the similar fashion, was successful in helping her cross the snowfields. Felt good and confident that I could cross any kind of snowfields.
Later on, after crossing many snowfields, met with another group with just three teenage kids. It was there the first time and they didn’t know about the trail. So I volunteered to help them find the trail. I told them about both the trail to the top of Timp: the way from the glacier and the trail around the south face of the Timp. Since there was lots of snow, they preferred the glacier route and that was the right decision. In the high camp, I found a tourist just enjoying the sun. I kept my bag pack inside the high camp and initiated conversation with him. After few minutes, we decided to go up the Timp up the glacier. I had done the hike to Mt. Timp before but never through the glacier. So, I was really excited. I took us around 45 mins to reach to the top. It was a hard climb to the top but really enjoyable. Stayed in the top of the mountain for about an hour. Talked with around 5 people who made it to the top. It was an awesome view from the top. Climbing the glacier with just pole and without a rope is not an easy task. Enduring that climb was a big deal. This journey gave me a good confidence boost.
I already have described the experience while gliding down the glacier. The tale of confidence starts when I was passing from the snowfield east face of the trail. I was confident that those snowfields were not a problem for me. My feet steady with good pole placement to balance my body. I think its the heavy bag or something else, 3 feet to cross the snowfield, my right feet slips and now I am gliding down with high acceleration. I remember the technique of self-arrest to slow down and control the direction of the slide but my body was not on right position for the technique to work. I tried and tried. The speed was not slowing down. I hit my right foot on a rock and felt numb. Then I came to my sense. From the Youtube video, I watched a few months back on self-arrest, I tried to change the position of my body so that I can use the self-arrest technique. I think I already have slid about 100 feet down but still no success. I let go of the pole in my left hand and tried arrest one more time. Finally, with the right technique, I was slowing down a little. The crushing of snow on my hand while arresting made my hands to go numb and lose grip on the poles. There was a huge rock around 50 feet down. It was now or never. I tried to change the direction and finally stopped just before the rock. I thought that I had broken my leg when it hit first time in the rock but after I checked the legs when I stopped, it was in one piece. I quickly rolled away from the snowfields. My poles were in the middle of the snowfields and water bottle at the bottom. The strange picked up my poles and I went to get my water bottle.
After that, I analyzed what has just happened. I slipped down a snowy cliff with my heavy backpack and was just able to save myself from the Youtube videos on self-arrest. Now my confidence went really low. When every I saw snowfields, I started getting nervous about what if I again slide down. These snowfields were the same ones that I crossed easily and confidently in the morning. Now the same snowfields were no longer familiar and were giving me a hard time. So what has changed during the morning and evening? The snowfields are the same. My confidence has changed. In the morning, I believed that the snowfields were not a match against my technique to balance using the poles with a solid step in the snow. Now after the accident when I slid down the cliff for about 300 feet, my mentality changed. Now, I see every snowfield has the potential to do the same to me.
This trip taught me about the importance of self-confidence. With the right mentality the same circumstances can be very pleasant and enjoyable and with a different mentality, the same sets of circumstance can be brutal and painful.
We all in life go through similar situations of up and downs. Those up and downs could be in a relationship, work, family or school. We tend to think that a set of circumstance has led us to suffer and pain, we try to avoid those circumstances and don’t want to deal with them. But it’s not the circumstance that made us suffer and feel pain. It was our action, our state of mind and the way we dealt with the situation. If we can feel confident in that moment of time and do the best action we possibly can, then the outcome would be different. So next time, when you encounter a life situation in which you had a bitter experience don’t try to avoid it. Just become confident and try to react in such a way that the situation turns to your advantage.
But being confident is very different than being overconfident and arrogance. Confidence is always good but overconfidence and arrogance can have negative impact in your life.