“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.” – Nelson Mandela
By Rich Lindbloom
False Summits, as anyone who has ever backpacked in the mountains can attest to, are very similar to a mirage in the desert. Backpackers become painfully acquainted with false summits as they switchback their way up the mountain, stealing surreptitious glances around a corner – praying that the end is almost in sight. It seems I tend to start looking for the end of the trail about half way into a hike. For those of you who have strapped 50#’s to 60#’s on your back and headed upwards, you might agree with me that this is around the time we ask people headed in the other direction, “How much further to Surprise Lake?”
The first backpacking trip I ever went on was in the Tetons in Wyoming. We started out the day in great spirits, in total awe of the magnificent peaks set before us. I remember thinking, “this looks pretty steep and dangerous.” Day one of our 7 day expedition was a 4,000 foot climb covering a distance of 6 miles. As I quickly learned, that 6 miles was not exactly as the crow flies. The banter and songs seemed to diminish as we ascended higher and higher up the never ending switchbacks. With aching backs and blistering feet we trudged onward and upward, many times fooled by what appeared to be the apex of the trail.