I should have known better. When I casually announced I’d like to go up Lembert Dome in Yosemite, I imagined a relatively easy switch-backing trail to the top. It does exist, but that’s how we went down, not up.
This was a reunion of sorts. Thirty years ago on an adventure in the Himalayan dragon kingdom of Bhutan, I bonded with our guide Christy, tent mate Dick, and logistics manager Tenzin. All mountaineers, for them there was only one way up the dome: directly up the face.
I’m a water girl, not a granite scrambler, or at least that’s my old story. This was a 700-800 feet gain, sometimes so steep Tenzin had to haul me up. Thirty years ago he had carried me up a high pass trail in Bhutan when I was sick; I joked that thirty years from now he’ll be spooning pablum into my mouth (with a shaking hand, he joked back).
There were nine of us. The youngest, age 15, declared near the beginning that she couldn’t do it, but she conquered her panic and was the first one up (on mismatched sneakers, to boot!). The oldest, age 86, walked on a badly hurt ankle and beat me to the top.
The lesson I’d first learned in Bhutan thirty years ago still held. When I entertained negative or fearful thoughts I’d become unbalanced. When I stayed positive I’d find the hand or foot hold, be able to look down the steep slope or out into the view, and carry on.