June 23rd 2012: An epic journey began, one that I did not fully grasp until I was hanging on for dear life on an icy mountain bluff wishing that I could be at home holding my babies, and hoping I would make it back to see them.
Last weekend, a friend of mine Jen, posted that she wanted a few people to do the Kusam Klimb with her. I was hesitant, but after looking over the website and running out of excuses, I made the decision to try. Jen, Krista and I were going to be the brave ones to conquer the Kusam Klimb.
Here I am first thing in the morning, I was feeling prepped for the day and if anything else, I felt like I looked the part!
On the way up we stopped at Tim Hortons for oatmeal. We had to get a little creative to allow Jen to eat hers.
This is as we were coming into Sayward towards the mountain, which you can't see because of the clouds.
We got out and headed to race packet pick-up, and we were all business.
Once at the packet pick up, we were getting our bags and shirts. One of the volunteers looked at me and said "Wow, I feel sorry for YOU, we only have mediums left". Talk about a blow to start out my day. In my most bitchiest voice ever I replied shortly "YEP, thanks". (It sounded really bitchy, trust me)
Then we headed out to the start line for a few pics before the race began.
It seemed like just a few minutes later we started the race. It started out with 2k down a road to the beginning to the actual trail.
Being that it had rained for the few days before, the trail was very muddy and slippery.
Right from the beginning of the trail you start heading up quite the incline. I was expecting it to be hard, but I ended up having to stop every 20-30 feet or so because my heart-rate kept sky-rocketing, even up to 200 at one point.
I broke down several times before check-point 1 (There are 6, and the first one is ONLY 1.5k from the road). I didn't want to hold Jen and Krista up and contemplated turning around. I had no idea how long it was going to take me, and it was SUCH a wake-up call. I told them they could leave me behind if they needed to. Many people were passing us and we ended up hiking along-side another group going a similar speed.
Jen, Krista and I made it to the 2000 foot elevation together. Shortly after I had settled in with the other ladies going my speed, and lost sight of Jen and Krista. My new group of people included Sean and Cheryl, Danielle, Niki, Shannon and since I'm absolutely horrible with names I missed the last lady's name. (I feel horrible because you'd think I'd know after a mountain together!!)
From here I put my camera and phone away for a while because it was rainy and I was getting really tired of taking them out and putting them away.
I had packed fireball for the Summit and my new group had heard me talking about it. They said "You have the fireball, we're not letting you out of our sight!". They didn't either. After 4 hours of hiking up steep muddy incline, a few slips, some rock climbing, and small breakdowns, Sean yelled down to me
"Megan I'm at the top!"
"Really?" I replied "Really, you're not fucking with me? Because if you're kidding, I DO have a leatherman"
"No, I'm not kidding, there is a book to sign and everything"
So I proceeded to climb, what I thought was the last, rock bluff. When I got to the top, I cried... again. I went and signed the book, and then I saw some of the signage that said "Keta Lake" and I remembered from the trail guide that there was more climbing to be done past that point. It's a pretty good thing I didn't use my leatherman though because Sean came in really handy for all us ladies later on.
From there we started into the snow, and the incline was much easier for a while. After about an hour we arrived at another point that we thought was the top. We rested for a bit, and then decided to start the decent. There were ropes at this part of the trail to help ensure you could get down safely, but it was still very scary. We were all slip sliding down and the mountain was VERY steep at this point. Luckily Sean had experience and confidence and guided each of us down the roughest points.
When we had made it past that steep section, I was hoping it was going to be transitioning to an easier downhill hike. I had done a lot of freaking out this far and was feeling very scared. This was my "scared shitless but I'm ok right now" face.
We walked past this beautiful lake (way better in person) and then saw it.
THEN, there was another GIANT mother fucking straight up, snow packed hill for us to climb up. This was where it got even scarier for me, and it got real. As we were all making our way, very slowly, up this hill, Shannon slipped and slid down 20-30 feet, and in that 2 seconds Sean managed to dash like a lightening bolt to try to intercept. Luckily she stopped at a lull in the snow, but an other few feet and it would have been straight down into that icy lake.
Eventually we all made it up to the REAL top and Check point 2. I was really relieved until the people at the top informed us that after SEVEN hours of climbing, we still had 16k back to the start/finish. We weren't even half-way. I also asked how steep it was because I didn't like the last steep part at all, and she replied with "Oh, well its way steeper on this side, but at least you're all downhill now.
I made my way through a couple trees to see what we were up against and became almost frozen. More ropes, and more really steep mountain-side. I decided to go for it, because really I didn't have any other option. I also decided to take this part, one step at a time. I had a new mantra and it was "Each step I take down, is a step I don't have to take back up, and a step closer to my kids and safety". I went though a moment where I felt totally irresponsible for doing this because I was risking my children's mother's life.
Then it got steeper, and there we saw that we had caught up to another pair of Klimbers, where one was having a very rough time going down on the ropes. We ended up passing them and continuing on down the mountain. I had been telling Danielle that I was done, and I would take whatever ride to the finish I could get. We agreed that what we had already done was a HUGE accomplishment. I really thought that I would be taking a ride from the soonest possible point.
The rope stopped, but it was still really steep and I was confused. I yelled "Where is the rope on THIS bitch!!". Luckily again, Sean had made heel spots in the snow almost like steps to help us continue down as safely as possible.
After what seemed like AGES the mountainside became a little easier to negotiate and I felt hopeful that I would not die on this mountain anymore.
After the 2-3 medic hut, I felt like I was on top of the moon, I felt safe, the snow was mostly done with, and it was no longer so steep. BUT we should still have 13k remaining.
I took a look behind me, and this is the mountain we had just come down...
We enjoyed the next section of trail, and I felt like all my worries would melt away. Then we saw bear poop.
and more bear poop.
I thought we were safe because we had spotted check point three's tent and I was almost ready to run to it, but then I heard everyone yelling at Dannielle. "BEAR, STOP!! BEAR". We were nearing a bridge and the bear was right on the other side amongst some old logging debris, about 10 feet from the trail.
Sean started yelling at the bear, and banging his walking sticks together. Then he threw a few rocks at it and it ran off up the mountain.
Needless to say I was very nervous to walk by that spot but we kept yelling so the bear would stay away.
We finally made it to check point 3, after 9 hours of hiking rough mountain terrain, where I finally got my nanaimo bars. There was also watermelon, trail mix, and beverages to help fuel us for the last 10+ kilometres. While we were there they informed us that the sweeping cut-off was a few minutes ago but that they would allow us to continue on, but we had to make it to check-point 4 before they did, because once we were there, there would be no other way out. So we ended up picking up steam and run/walking to check point 4 where we saw we "only" had 6.4 kilometres to go. Only ONE more hour and we would finally be finished. The last 6k felt like a breeze because I could taste the finish.
Here I am a few hundred meters from the finish line. Everytime cars passed they honked in congrats, it was making me tear up. Then came the bells and announcing. It felt so... I can't come up with the proper words, but it was an indescribable feeling.
Part of my "Tribe" as we headed in. Right after this we all ran in together.
Here is the Tribe at the finish line after everyone was through. I am so thankful to each of them for adopting me into their group. They were so supportive, accepting and totally ok with every mental break-down I had. Especially thankful for Cheryl and Sean, because I have no idea, and don't even want to THINK about how I would have continued on without them. I owe them all Fireball, as we never did actually end up cracking it open on route.
Apparently I burned 2 lbs doing this climb!!
That was officially the most crazy, challenging, extreme thing, that I have EVER done. Don't know if I would ever do it again, but it definitely goes down in the books, and I'm thankful for the experiance!