My ankles ached as we trekked along the dirt path surrounded by towering trees. In front of me my friend’s dad, John, set the pace. I tried to enjoy the miles of untouched nature, but my 25 pound backpack seemed to get heavier with every step. Behind me my friends Elvi and Veronica trudged on. We had been training for this trip for months, but it wasn’t until we were miles from the King’s Canyon visitor’s center that it set in that we were stuck in the wilderness for a week. Once the sun started to set, we decided to set up camp in a flat patch of dirt by a stream. There was snow all around the site, even in June. We quickly set up our tent and made dinner. Dehydrated chili never tasted so good!
Early the next morning we emerged from our tent to munch on a delicious breakfast of tortillas and peanut butter. This was the day we would attempt to reach the summit of Mount Silliman. We packed up and headed down the path, surrounded by dew covered plants which shone in the morning sun. After a couple hours, we made it to a pile of large rocks which formed a border between the path and a large slope covered in snow. We got into a line and dug our feet into the snow at an angle so that we wouldn’t fall. The stitch in my side and sharp pains in my feet faded away as I concentrated on my footsteps.
As the temperature rose the snow started to get slushy, and our feet weren’t holding well. With one unlucky step, my boot slipped from the snow. My body was flung downward. I felt for something to grab onto, but found nothing. Before I knew it I was sliding on my stomach down the mountain, towards a ledge of sharp rocks. Adrenaline rushed through my body. I heard voices shouting above me, but couldn’t process what they were saying. All I could distinguish was “toes and elbows!”. I immediately dug my toes and elbows into the snow, trying desperately to stop. I finally stopped myself just feet from the rocky ledge. I breathed a sigh of relief, and found myself laughing in shock. I looked up and saw everyone looking down at me and yelling. My heart still raced as I got to my feet and grabbed someone’s hand. I finally caught my breath once I reached the rest of the group.
They asked me if I wanted to keep going. The snow in my shoes and clothes seeped into my skin and made me shiver. I almost said no, but then I looked up at the strangely flat top of the summit looming over us. I knew I had to reach it. I nodded. We carefully hiked up the rest of the snowy hill until we stood near the summit and looked up at the short but steep climb ahead. We struggled up the incline and perched on the flat surface of the summit. Looking out, it felt like I could see the entire world beneath me. Groves of trees, patches of vibrant green grass, sloping mountains, blankets of snow, and still lakes. As I stood in awe, 11,193 feet high in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, I vowed to remember that moment. The aches and pains, the heat and snow, the dehydrated food and terrifying moments. Everything led up to feeling more accomplished than ever before. Reaching the summit was the most trying and rewarding experience of my life.
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