Glacier National Park, Montana, Summer 2013
Mt. Cannon, 8,952ft
A few years back, my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to take some vacation and travel up to Glacier National Park (GNP) in Montana to visit a dear college friend of mine. I’d been there before, and love going back to gain some perspective and see the pure, raw beauty nature can provide. The first day we were there, we ventured out bright and early to hike Mt. Cannon, an 8,952 foot peak inside Glacier National Park. Quick side note, the last time I visited Montana, we hiked up Mt. Oberlin (8,180 ft), which was incredibly challenging for many reasons. It was literally straight up, and being from California living by the beach, the altitude alone kicked my butt. Flash forward a few years to hiking Mt. Cannon, I was challenged in ways that far outweighed the challenges that Mt. Oberlin provided.
Back to the story. We love the outdoors and love to hike. So we were excited and looking forward to going up Mt. Cannon. The scenery in GNP is spectacular, the company just as good. As we started up, I quickly realized this wasn't you're average hike, and that I would be challenged in ways I hadn’t experienced before.
Let me set the stage a bit.
I was hiking with 3 guys, two of whom live near GNP and hike in the park almost every weekend. My bf and I do not. We live at sea level and hike occasionally. My girl friend couldn’t come because she was recovering from hip surgery.
Initially, the hike started out like any other; on a steep trail but not too hard. Soon after, the trail changed from “normal path” to a skinny mountain goat trail veering on an angle straight up the side of the mountain. A little unusual, but no biggie and we continued on. I naturally fell into the caboose position in the group. Shorter legs and smaller steps made that a good place for me. I could see the group and go at my own pace without getting too disconnected or feeling the pressure to go faster because someone was behind me.
We soon reached these huge rock formations with sections that had to be climbed up to get to the next part of the trail. Normally I love this stuff! But these rocks were different. They were incredibly sharp, steep, and in many places I needed help getting up. Not too mention the steepest bowls I’ve ever seen on either side with what I estimated to be about a 2,000 or more foot drop. Because I was the caboose and the guys were already up ahead waiting, I had no help. My little legs had to get up those rocks, but this very real and very paralyzing fear came over me.
For the first time in my life, I was scared to death.
The reality of life and death had overwhelmed me, and I didn’t think I would be able to go on. I was the last person in the train of the four of us, which left me with little help in areas I felt I needed it. I was scared. This is where mind over matter came into play for me. I thought I had a tough mindset, but in those moments staring at those rocks, I wasn't so sure. But I kept on. I had to. I literally had to put mind over matter and will myself up the mountain. I didn’t want to get left behind. And I really did want to reach the summit of Mt. Cannon.
I cried for a few moments at each obstacle and then took a lot of deep breaths. I started using positive self-talk. “You can do this Katie.” “Just one step at a time.” I took it slow. I tried to shift my focus from what I didn’t want to happen, which was to fall to my death (dramatic I know), to what I did want to happen; to climb those rocks. I utilized my mental skills more so then I ever had before in my life. Self talk, breathing, mantras, positivity, and mind over matter. All these things helped me conquer that fear.
Once I reached the peak, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I had to sit down, calm down, and take it all in. As I sat there at the top, a sense of pure pride and accomplishment came over me. I was so proud of myself for pushing through such a challenging situation, and the reward of making it to the top after wanting to give up filled my heart and mind with joy. It was a defining moment in my life as well as my professional career. Not to the mention the incredible views from the top. It was all worth it, and showed me that with the right mindset and attitude, I can push through anything I’m faced with. Because of that experience, I’m better equipped for future challenges. The experience taught me to embrace adversity, and look at challenges as opportunities for growth. No matter what happens, there are always things to be learned and gained that make us better. Mind over matter is real, and maybe more importantly, can be trained and improved.
Thinking back, I’d definitely hike Mt. Cannon again. I’m sure it will challenge me again, and I will have to re-face some of the fears I had on that mountain that day. But I want to. I want to conquer that hike, and enjoy it even more the next time.
Hey! I'm Katie, and I specialize in Mental Performance. I believe greatly in mindset and the role it plays in life.