Friday, August 13, 2010

What I learned while climbing Vernal Falls.

A few years ago, I tried to hike the Mist Trail that takes you to the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park with two of my best friends. I was too out of shape and could not make it. Vernal Falls is a relatively easy hike, just 1.5 miles but it winds and climbs up a long incline that eventually turns into “going into Mordor” type stairs up the actual side of the fall which is 317 feet tall.

Late in 2009, in response to Don Miller’s recent writings and encouragements to turn your life into a better story, I posted here that I was going to get into better shape, lose weight and climb to the top of Vernal Falls. You can read that full post HERE (There’s even an entry in comments section from Mr. Miller. I know, name dropper!)

Well, I said I’d do it in the Spring. Spring came and went and to be honest, I have not had all that much success in the weight loss and getting in shape area. I have gone up and down (as has my resolve). I have blamed this and that. It is one of the hardest battles of my life. I have not given up just yet.

Regardless of my “in-shape-ness”, Jimmy, his boy, Zion, Aaron, my boys Josh and Sam and I loaded up on Wednesday and headed out to see if I could get up the falls. I was quite nervous. What if I just couldn’t do it. I would not only let my friends down again but my sons were there too. And what if they couldn’t make it? If you know the Whiters, you know we’re not the most in-shape folk on the block. Usually, we prefer an air conditioned theater to hiking and the like.

But, there was nothing for it, our lot was cast. We were gonna give it a shot. So, in Don Miller blogging style, here it is...What I learned while climbing Vernal Falls...

Take on challenges in a community.
Many hands make light work.” The old saying is a saying because it’s true. It’s easier to do things in groups. If you’ve all bought into the vision, it isn’t as easy to give up. You all can laugh about how hard it is and you can all celebrate making it to the next level.

Take on challenges by remembering the beauty around you.
On the hardest parts of the trail, I found it easier when I took time to look up at the beautiful park all around me. How much do we miss when we have our eyes on the path and we don’t stop and look up? There is always beauty to be found if we look for it.

Take on challenges by doing them in smaller segments and taking it slow.
We took a lot of breaks. It was a steep hill to walk up. When we’d start off again, I’d point up the trail and pick the next spot to stop and catch my breath. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get up the hill and allowed anybody in the group to break when they needed to. We also encouraged each other to reach the projected goal. None of us felt the need to be super-human but we pushed ourselves to keep going.

Before going on to my final lesson learned, I’ll pause here to say
in the previous Vernal attempt, I failed in all of these points. Jimmy and Aaron were with me but I was trying to get up myself. I pushed myself hard to the breaking point and inevitably had to give up. I wanted to fit in with my fitter friends and did not admit my weakness. I did not let them help me. And I failed. This next part was THE key to get me up the falls.

Take on challenges by changing your motivation.
I made it up the falls (oh yeah, I haven’t said that yet...yes, we made it!) because my motive changed from wanting to get myself up Vernal Falls to wanting to get my sons up Vernal Falls. They both really wanted to do this with me and I did not want to let them down. Every goal I set, every decision and thought was turned toward helping them succeed. And I wanted to make them proud.

I took the rear of the group and held back even when I felt I could go faster. I watched for signs that Sam needed to rest. I was watching to keep Josh hydrated. By switching my focus from getting myself up the falls to getting them up the falls it resulted in getting me up the falls too. Woo hoo!


Carrie said...

Way to GO! Great story/lessons!

Sustar said...

Ahhhhhh Yeahhhh.

Diane Giles said...

Awesome story Chris!! In your next career you should be a writer, seriously!!!!!!!! Now I am motivated to start hiking more!!

Beth said...