The first 15 minutes of climbing suck! They always do. The legs are never quite ready, the lungs seem to gasp and struggle, and my mind throws little hesitant hints into the mix. But I push past it. I push my legs to get into the rhythm of the climb. I push my lungs to find their capacity. I PUSH the hesitation and reservation from my thoughts and focus on the potential reward that awaits me up the mountain.
Hunting the ridges and high basins is not easy, but that’s what makes it so special. It takes a heap load of drive, determination, and effort to accomplish. Unfortunately, too many people reason themselves out of it and never leave the bottom of the valley. Now as much as I enjoy that up high generally equals no other hunting pressure, I want to encourage others to take those extra leg burning steps so that they can enjoy a whole new experience. The rewards can come in a variety of ways.
Earlier this fall I had spotted the signature tan color of the big bull from the valley bottom one evening, and figured he’d likely still be close by his treeline hang out the next morning. I didn’t care that he was almost 2,000 vertical feet above me…I was going after him. With dawn still almost 2 hours away, we saddled the packs on our backs, clicked on the headlamps, and started up the mountain. Stumbling up the slope in the deceiving headlamp light made for one more reason to question myself. I pushed on.
Black turned to grey, and soon the dawn view of the valley below gave me a small amount of satisfaction. It spurred me up the last portion of the hill to the bull’s domain. Reaching the area, I felt invigorated with the thought of conquering the climb. At this point I would have loved to have said that the bull bugled from the crisp, frosty ridge, and stepped out of his hiding spot for a perfect shot, but it was not meant to be. After glassing, waiting, and finally calling in multiple sequences, he was nowhere to be seen. The realization was setting in, but I still took a small amount of delight from the spruce and pine tickling my nose. The sounds of the light breeze, the squirrels, and the mix of birds creating nature’s chorus were a sweet sounding reward. The picturesque view from the top of the world was a symbol of success in itself.
Reward comes in many forms, and on many hikes, stimulating the heart, the senses, and the mind are victory. But this morning held more for me. The sun was now warming up the open grassy patches, and a golden red bear soon caught my eye. Packs on, boots racing, we soon made it to the perfect shooting location. Getting set up for a solid rest, I paused for a few seconds to take in the moment, and truly appreciate the rewards of dreaming of, climbing to, and pushing to the high country.