It was an another beautiful sunny day. The sky was clear and the air was crisp warm – just perfect for a day to hike up the Mont Tremblant.
We had tried to go up yesterday but with the rain from the day before the ground was muddy. The kids had slipped. Yahya had hurt his knee.
He seemed in no position to hike. It was to be 7 Km round trip at it’s shortest if we hiked straight up (which was unlikely).
Yousuf had gotten up in the middle of night complaining of a stomach ache. He had been snacking non stop. Soemthing I have noticed that we all do on car rides and plane trips. I had given him some medicine and let him sleep in our bed.
Sohail and I debated if we should leave the kids alone in the cottage and do the hike. The excitement of the hike had woken me up real early. I suggested that we go early in morning before the kids woke up. It was bright at 5 am. I thought we could be back by 10 am.
Sohail reasoned that it was a bad idea to leave the kids alone and he suggested that we skip the hike.
I really wanted to go. I had been practicing with kids in their running class and wanted to see if I had developed any stamina. It looked like a relatively easy climb with some steep portions.
Hence we ended up in a needless argument that couples have when one has the heart set on something and the other is being realistic. I knew he was right about not leaving a sick kid alone incase he got worse. We really couldn’t get back quick he said.
I am surprised at how unreasonable I can be at times and it is such a shame. I decided to go alone. I have an ankle injury which does give me trouble at times and going alone was not very wise. But when one is in an unreasonable mood, one doesn’t really care.
We all got to the village. I started on the hike immediately. I did worry that coming down was going to be tough but I had my heart set on doing this. I am glad that I did.
I got on the trail and climbed as fast as I could; I wanted to cover maximum distance. I pushed myself harder and kept going.
My heart was beating really fast and I could feel it thumping in my chest. I looked at my watch my heart beat was at 180 (not a good sign). I slowed down and decided to sit and let my heart rate come down. With my physical fitness such high heart rate would only cause me trouble. I sat on a rock and drank some water. I took a picture of the trail I had covered so far. I gave myself 5 minutes. I had my eyes on my watch as I watched my heart rate come down. At 125 beats I was ready to go on.
It was tougher than I had anticipated. The hike was steep and with melting snow there were still many muddy patches. To my bad luck my joggers were coming off from the seam (it is strange how many things go wrong at the same time). My joggers with their mesh and breathable skin,perfect for the warm Karachi weather, would let in the cold water – my feet were wet and uncomfortable.
Though in the sun I didn’t feel cold but in the shade the wind gave me chills. I thought to myself Laila just quit know one knows you started the hike. It doesn’t matter. The kids are sick and you should spend time with them.
This self talk in my mind like a pendulum swinged between I need to do this for myself to I was being a mean Mother.
I finally decided if I didn’t finish this I would be unhappy and that wasn’t good for anyone. I must go on.
I struggled as the climb got vertical. My feet slipped in a number of places. I was scared because if I fell I would roll down the steep hill. As I looked back I felt dizzy. It was a steep. I said a small prayer and asked God for help.
There in the bushes I found a discarded stick. The end was broken but it was still usable. It helped me get the much needed balance. I thank God and used it to dig in ground to help me get up the slope.
It reminded me of the staff of the Prophet Moses. He was sent divine help, this was my divine help. Happy that I had help I was very excited to continue on.
I approached this big patch of snow. I saw that some hikers just walked across it. My shoes had no grip and they were porous. I decided to climb up the banks on the side.
The bank was covered in many small loose stones and the grass was slippery. I used my stick to dig deep in the ground and then used that as an anchor to move forward. I was now stepping mostly on my toes in gaps between stones and grass. Thankfully it was a small patch and I was over it quick.
My legs hurt and I wanted to stop. I reprimanded myself. I was half way up the trail. I had covered about 2.5 km. I had to finish this quick, kids were waiting.
I disciplined myself such that I could only take a break after every 30 steps. I counted the steps loudly and cheerfully like a nursery rhyme. I even cheated and didn’t count some steps and forced myself to go on longer. I sang silly songs like I use to when the kids were toddlers. All in an attempt to distract my mind from the pain in my legs.
When I did take a break I timed it to be maximum 4 minutes. I would look for a big rock and sit down. Then take out my phone take a picture. I looked around the scenery. Drank some water and had a half piece date. I tried not to focus on the vertiginous ascent.
The village now looked far away. I was feeling better. My legs didn’t hurt much. I was very excited to see that I was getting closer to the summit.
I was very impressed with the many regular hikers that almost ran past me going up. Many ran down the hill. They were as sure footed as the mountain goats. Their feet firm on the ground. I would stop and look at them with great intent. Almost mesmerised with their movements.
My only snack – a few pieces of dates. I allowed myself half a date on each stop. The dates were a great choice – they kept my sugar level going and I felt full.
My last stop. I could see the summit clear from here. I allowed myself a longer stop. I thought back to my hike up the Table Mountains in South Africa. The hikers there were very friendly, many greeted me and said a small word of encouragement. Here people just walked pass me. There was no smile on their faces. I had tried to say Good Morning to the hikers that crossed me but they just ignored me. I wondered why?
The last leg of the hike. It was steep to say the least. I was kind of crawling my way up using both the stick and my hands for balance and grip. My scarf (I had put on an extra big wool scarf to keep me warm) was loose and blowing in my face. Making it difficult for me to see where I was going. I was getting uneasy on my feet. I paused to tuck my scarf in my shirt. I wasn’t sure if I should put on my jacket. As I debated the wind got really cold and strong. It was pushing me off my feet. My nose was running. There was no place to take cover. With great difficulty I managed to take out my jacket from my bag and put it on. I am glad I did. It got more windy as I climbed up.
Some flat ground and panoramic views of the area. I paused I was hesitant to go near the edge. The management had tapped off a section of the descent as it was almost vertical and some hikers had gotten hurt going down this route.
The view of the summit. This would be the last 5 minutes of the climb. I couldn’t contain my excitement. It would be no exaggeration if said that I almost ran (read crawled on my hands and feet) up this last bit. The adrenaline rush and the euphoria pushing me on.
The view from the top of Mont Tremblant. The village looked tiny. I sat down and looked around. I was quite pleased with myself. I had done it and in reasonable time. I had started at 1045 and it was 1230. Not bad I thought to myself.
Time for a selfie. Pleased with myself.
I stayed at summit for few minutes. I walked around to see if there was another way to go down. The route I had taken up was steep and my feet felt unsteady now. This way (in picture up) seemed more manageable. Using my trusted stick I headed down. Very slowly and very carefully I knew one stumble would cost me. I had seen people run down, I really wanted to experience that thrill of running down but decided it was not such a wise decision.
On the way down I met 4 ladies carrying their infants on their backs. They were almost half way up and the steeper part of the journey was still to come. They had paused to ask how much more of journey was left. They spoke English I was happy to have someone to speak to. I encouraged them on saying that they were almost there. Realising that going up with babies is tough I offered them my stick. We wished each other luck and moved on.
Going down the hill without a stick was very tough. I slipped a number of times. I started to look around for another stick or a branch to help me stay steady. I found a broken branch lying in trees I used that. With the branch/stick going down was easier.
I lost my way going down by taking a different and much longer route. It was at fork that I went right instead of staying left. The ground on this track was muddier and had many snow covered patches. I debated if I should head back but decided to go on. There were no hikers on this route which also worried me. For if I got hurt I wouldn’t get any help. I kept going with a prayer in my heart. My progress slowed down by running water and slippery ground. Though the path was relatively flatter than the previous route.
Finally the village in sight. I was tired but feeling exhilarated to have finished the hike. The kids had gone home. I found later that Sohail had gone looking for me, worried that I had taken longer than planned. I was no longer angry with him for not coming along.