A decision and preparation
On October 17, 2020 I decided that I am going on a hike to climb Teide (3,718 meters high) for seeing the sunrise from the summit.
I checked the weather forecast and it was predicted to be +5° C (on top). Winter was coming, so temperatures were expected to be dropping over the coming weeks. Which gave me more of the reasons to do it NOW!
I also wanted to walk over there from the place I stayed and my estimation was about 10-12h walk to the typical “starting point” of Montaña Blanca. And from there onward typical journey till the top takes an additional 3-5h.
Why did I divide it into 2 stages? Because the last part was the typical journey of steep ascent and I had a separate source of an estimate of how much time it takes to conquer this part.
The plan was to walk all night long as opposed to sleeping somewhere in the way. Fewer things to worry about and carry about. And you keep yourself warm as long as you keep moving.
With Sun rising at 8 am, the ideal time to arrive at the summit is between 7-8 am because I did not want to be waiting on the top in the cold.
The day before I took care of buying a water bottle and gloves. And for everything else, I planned to do the best with what I had. Luckily about 1h before departure I talked to a friend in a hostel I was living in and she turned out to very experienced mountain runner and gave me not only very valuable tips but also some of her gear to make the hike more enjoyable. I can not express my gratitude with words enough not only to her offering the help. Also, I am very grateful to myself to get over my pride and accept the help offered.
So instead of packing heavy jeans in my backpack, I got ultra-lightweight thermo-clothing and windbreakers.
Instead of a puffy jacket and a couple of pullovers, I got a windproof ultra-lightweight jacket and more thermo-clothing.
Not only my backpack got much lighter & smaller as result. I also got better equipped to enjoy the hike and deal with the weather.
And one of the most crucial pieces of advice I got was – taking hiking poles.
I never had use for them. So naturally, I did not plan on bringing any with me. I also never had gone on such exhausting hikes before, unlike my friend. So I decided to take the advice and go against my own judgment. Whose opinion and experience are more valuable in this situation, right?
And I am so glad I did – they proved to be invaluable during the last 3-4h steep climb when my legs were already very tired and having an upper-body to leverage some climbing power was priceless.
Extremely happy and grateful I embarked on the journey which turned out to be more of an adventure than I ever expected.
Sudden chain of events
And a large part of the story was about my shoes! I had my trusted sandal which I take with me on every hike I go. I love hiking in sandals – they keep my feet warm, but not hot nor cool. They keep their feet well ventilated so they don’t sweat. And if they get wet, they dry off quickly.
And I also had some sneakers for when I get closer to the top and it gets colder and windier.
I left the hostel just before 3 PM. And sometime around 4:30 PM my left sandal just broke. I was disappointed for having to switch to closed shoes so early on because I appreciate my feet being well ventilated and dry (which usually is not the case when you walk in closed shoes for long periods of time).
I accepted this mental challenge and continued the journey with the intention to enjoy it as much as I can.
And then around 6 PM, another surprise came my way! The whole sole of my left sneaker came off! It just unglued! I did try to fix it, cope with it make some quick solutions to extend the use of the shoes. However, they were gone! There was nothing I could do about them anymore.
I was determined to continue almost to the point of “no matter what”!
As I continued to walk… I noticed more and more worry in my mind on “How to continue the journey?”, “What will happen overnight?”, “What options do I have?” etc…
As I was worrying and not really enjoying the walk anymore… Until something more unexpected happened: soon after the other sole started coming off! And I was very soon to be walking barefoot. Literally! Now it was evident that I am NOT going to be able to go on like this very long!
As I continually assess my options, there was one thought that did not get much attention. Turning back was something I did not entertain lightly. Even when there was 3h behind and more than 8h (+4h) in front.
In my mind turning back after 3h walk and trying another day was associated with more pain than freezing my feet off and all the other horrors I could imagine.
At the same time, I also wanted to enjoy the journey. And it was not happening!
By 7 PM, I have made a decision – stop the worry and switch back to the (broken) sandal! I used shoelaces from the broken sneakers to fix the sandal and continue as far as I can get with this MacGyver hack. I am still worried about how long will the shoe laces can last under sharp volcanic rocks and if they can even last for the next 12h of walk… However, as my tolerance for worry was going down, I grew more confident that I can figure something out by then if any other challenges arise.
I was happy for being able to have a working solution. I was grateful for not needing to turn back. However, I still worried about the sustainability of the solution. Still worried about: what else could go wrong?
Then I found the irony in the situation.
I reminded myself that not only most (if not all!) of the worries I ever have never come true.
I reminded myself that worry in advance makes me neither come up with better solutions nor prepare me (mentally or otherwise) to overcome them.
I reminded how unproductive, pointless, useless it is to worry because it not only does not return any of the time, energy invested, it has already made a cost on emotional state and well-being. Cost on physical energy levels!
So gradually I shifted my thoughts and changed the questions I entertained to more positive ones.
I reminded myself of the intention to enjoy the walk itself, not only the destination.
And that was the end of the shoe adventure – not only my shoelace fix was strong and sustainable enough to get me to the top. It also endured bringing me all the way back the next day!
Not only I was grateful for stopping this pointless worry, but I also was able to enjoy the nature and blessings I had so far.
Not only my feet did not freeze in sandals on top, extra socks I got proved to be enough to keep me warm.
The rest of the hike went on relatively smoothly. Walking for hours and hours.
Smooth does not mean effortless
It was gradually getting colder, and I gradually was putting more clothing on.
It was gradually getting darker, and my eyesight adapted.. until I tuned head torch on.🙂
I was having stretching breaks to relax my legs, hips, shoulders.
Physically the hardest part was the last couple of hours. By that time my legs were already tired. And I was relying on hiking poles & willpower to keep me going forward & up. It was though.
My preferred strategy was to keep a steady pace – however slow I need to go, as long as I keep moving, I stay warm. So I barely took any breaks.
The path was unfamiliar but well signed. No look-ahead in the dark – you don’t know what to expect. You simply get there when you get there! Because of being tired I also was “in dark” on my own speed estimations which I usually am very good at. A lot of it was a mental challenge and an opportunity to learn more about myself. And there was no one else to blame or hope for. Just me.
Sunrise was a long-awaited turning point! That was the moment I came up for. And it was a very beautiful one. I got lucky with the weather to get sunrise with both clear enough and some clouds to bring out color play.
One thing that I did miss out on was seeing the shadow of Teide on the opposite side of the mountain.
As for going down I was tired however relieved that the hardest part was behind. And I ended up walking ALL the way back on foot as well.
I don’t recall exactly, however, the whole journey took me a bit more than 24h after which I did a yoga practice, shower, and going to sleep…
I must admit, I did not really want to practice yoga after all the walking and being exhausted, however, I did know that it will help me to recover faster after sleep. And that was reason enough to have this “emergency session” with me.