Wright Mountain, Wrong Day

Tired of feeling lost, tired of letting go.
Tear the whole world down, tear the whole world down.

“Failure” – Breaking Benjamin


It’s an ugly word.

From the Anglo-Norman French failer it’s one of those words in our language that needs no definition, it’s self-explanatory. If Yoda was providing the breakdown it would simply be Fail U R.

At the end of a tough day on the mountain in the Adirondacks, it was the sole word that kept repeating in my head as I tried to analyze what had gone so wrong on a day that had started so well.

The initial plan was to take three mountains Wright, Algonquin and Iroquois on a 16 kilometre out and back hike that seemed doable despite my struggles with Cascade and Porter a month earlier. I’d dropped a little weight, worked on my fitness a bit and felt confident that adding another seven kilometres was within my reach.

I was wrong. Very wrong. My thoughts setting out were primarily should I do Wright on the way out or on the way back and be sure I didn’t “orphan” Iroquois as I was warned by my mountain hiking muse. By the time I got to the Wright Algonquin split in the trail, it was a question of one or the other, certainly not both and definitely not all three.

My legs, usually my engines, just were not themselves. Weak and sluggish I’d been struggling for about an hour at that point and could not figure out why. Physically I should have been better than I was a month earlier. Mentally the hordes of Ironman athletes in nearby Lake Placid for the weekend had been an inspiring sight.

But I was collapsing both mentally and physically and seriously contemplating going 0 for 3, cutting my losses and descending without a single peak. Looking at the trail signs though Wright beckoned at only 0.6 kilometres away and finally I decided I wouldn’t allow the shutout.

It wasn’t easy and about three-quarters of the way to the summit I see the first person I’ve seen since leaving the parking lot as a young woman, a summit steward it turns out is passing me like I’m standing still. The wind is ferocious, hinting at the storms brewing to the west, but the views even below the summit and despite the haze are stunning and between having someone to follow up and the desire to capture some images I will my way to the top.

At the top, the views, the conversation with Summit Steward Micheala and lunch take the edge off the disappointment of knowing I’m not doing anything but making the long hike down the mountain well short of my stated goal.

Struggling down but not as badly as on Cascade and Porter, this time I have both my contacts in place and my hiking poles in hand I finally reach the parking lot and can think about nothing but lying down and the upcoming long drive home.

Two nights later I’m sitting in my favourite chair listening to a new Spotify playlist I’ve named Wright Mountain, Wrong Day trying to figure out how things went so badly wrong. Having been a coach for a very long time you learn to deeply analyze defeats, which contain far more lessons than victories and this was definitely a defeat.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intellegently.

Henry Ford.

Technically it seemed pretty obvious I’d overestimated my ability and underestimated the opponent.

Obviously, I needed to continue to improve my fitness if I wanted to complete these sort of solo hikes in the Adirondacks.

Then I decided to look at the cold, hard numbers.

Distance Cascade and Porter – 9 km. Distance covered on Wright ascent 11 kms. Interesting.

Elevation Gain. Cascade and Porter 699 metres. Wright 718 metres. Hmmm.

Elevation. Cascade 4098 feet. Wright 4580 feet – 16th highest of the 46ers. Huh.

An 18% increase in distance. 3% in gain and 10% in elevation.

There it was. Something to build on. There was an improvement in every single number. The problem was tactical. I’d simply not approached the hike correctly – I should have broken it down into bite-sized chunks hiking in and spending one or both nights camping on the mountain instead of trying, at least at this point as a long solo hike.

Lessons from failure are always well earned.

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
Yeah with every broken bone
I swear I lived

“I Lived” – One Republic

This is not the end of the story.