Adventure (/adˈvenCHər,əd-/) noun: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Have you ever had one? Last week I experienced my first true adventure. In New Hampshire. I climbed Mount Washington!
I don’t believe there are very many people who can say they would want to leave the comfort of their home in winter to travel north to even colder winter temps than they are experiencing. But our Napotnik family did it! We packed up and left late Thursday evening to spend a night In Pennsylvania and then continued on to our destination and arrived in beautiful, rugged, white, cold, freezing, magnificent New Hampshire Friday night! We spent the week fellowshipping with loved ones, enjoying the white powdery deep snow, sledding down fun hills, hiking, ice climbing (well the menfolk anyways) and mountain climbing. It was truly a most enjoyable experience. It was such a blessing to me to see my kids play with their daddy, their uncles and their dear sweet beautiful aunt….whom is pregnant with their FIRST girl cousin! To see them snuggle next to Papa and Oma and yes even Mr. Reed! We played hard and slept hard. We enjoyed fires in the house’s three fireplaces, the smell of winter smoke and hot cocoa. We enjoyed cooking large and yummy meals for the whole party each night and even once at an amazing restaurant called The Flatbread Company, where flatbread pizzas were baked in a real authentic wood fired oven, all ingredients organic and local. The biggest coo came Monday morning when August, Papa and I set out for the white mountains to climb one infamously dangerous mountain, Mt. Washington.
How can I possibly describe it? Check out the current conditions on the summit (6,289 feet) here.
Our day was forecasted to be partly cloudy, which to my husband who has climbed Mt. Washington several other times meant beautiful conditions where clouds would come and go and sometimes blow right over you. What we got was something completely different. Our climb started at 8:30am at the information center. From there we chose the Ammonoosuc Trail which all in all was a 3.8 mile hike to the summit. It took us approximately 7 hours. Our weather was pleasant and beautiful, albeit very chilly, but upon reaching the alpine zone everything changed. Gusts of wind approaching higher than 50mph began blasting our windproof shells. Fingers started really getting cold and if you stopped even for a moment the cold would sink in to your bones. I’ve never felt such dangerous temps in all my life. We reached the hut in Lake of the Clouds and from there our hike turned to Mt. Everest like conditions. We decided to continue on believing the summit was just around the corner (a 1.7 mile distance took us 2 hours). From the saddle, and in complete white-out conditions (meaning you can hardly see 10 feet in front of you) we began trudging through thick snow drifts. Each step was exhausting because you would step and sink, step and sink. The effort to pull yourself back out again was extremely exhausting. Believing it too late to turn back we pressed on even though I could sense the worry and hesitation in my husband (something he does not show often). I knew it was serious and as we made our summit bid and I looked and saw the worry along with the frostbite on my husband’s face I knew I had to be strong. This was the real deal…there was no room for fear lest it take over you and consume your mind and defeat your body’s efforts to survive. I pushed passed him, and trudged my way through the drifts, desperately seeking those stone pyramids which guided our path to the summit. There were several times where the drifts were so deep it was all I could do to crawl like an animal, using my ice ax to dig and pull me up toward the next pyramid. All through iced goggles. Personal note, once you put your goggles on….never take them off. They will fog. I made that mistake. Though almost completely blinded by wearing them, I kept them on because the stinging snow and wind was too painful with them off. Literally….I saw where I was going by looking through a small clear sport in the lower right corner of my goggles. Seeing me press on encouraged August to take the lead again. There shortly afterward we summited. Winds 55mph (which I suppose is low considering how high they get up there). -10 degrees but because of the wind felt like -50! What I saw looked like something from another planet. The gray skies filled with swirling snow and ice. And the observatory with it’s huge satellite dishes looked like something from Mars. We rested a bit then made our way back down the access road. Another 7.8 miles down. Through the moonlight we reached the bottom of the mountain and since we were miles from our car we reached a lodge and phoned for a pick up from there. All in all it took us the entire day and into the night to finish.
But we did it. We survived. We prevailed! Through tears I heard my husband say, “I’m sorry I brought you up here, Kelli.” He later told me that he had NEVER climbed in those conditions before and the conditions we summited in were conditions that most mountaineers in their right mind would have turned away from. Somehow, I came down the mountain with no frostbite. The only wounds were from my boots blistering my heels. August and Papa both have scars now from frostbitten faces. Somehow I was untouched. The only thing I can say was God protected me. God gave me the strength to press on when I felt my husband hesitating. God inspired us to survive and get back down again when truly through the cold you felt the cold zapping your strength and threatening your very breath of life!
I can’t say that I am fully able to describe that day. But I can certainly say it was the most memorable day of my life. Such a special bond I feel I now share with August and his dad. How truly happy we were to come home to our loved ones…to see my children run up and grab my legs in sheer relief and excitement.
This experience has imparted one important lesson. When you realize how fleeting life is and how very easily it can be taken from you, all that matters in this life are those eternal hearts that beat around you. Life’s possessions and even goals quickly fade and disappear when you realize all you really want is your family around you. Up on that mountain, all I could think about what how much I loved my children, how much I wanted them near me in those deathly moments.
So readers, cherish your families! Hug them close and never loose sight of what is truly important. Everything else is trivial and of little significance compared to them.
So climbing that mountain was unusual and exciting. It was hazardous and we overcame it! I climbed Mt. Washington!