The pitch black and stinging wind isolated me from my fellow mountaineers. Only a rope attached me to my friends, my family and my other life. I looked up occasionally to see little strings of lights, about three or four at a time, slowly making a path towards what I couldn’t see, but knew, was the top of Mount Rainier. The lactic acid burned in my legs. But the physical pain and the eeriness of the pitch black didn’t even compare to what was going on in my head. Inside waged a complete war, an utter explosion of thoughts and decisions I had made in my life. I debated what defined me as a person and looked inward.
Had I been a good enough brother? Was I being a good student?
I had burned through the two bowls of oatmeal that I’d stuffed down my throat two hours before when I’d woken up at midnight. The rope attached in front of me gave me a tug bringing back my wandering mind to the mountain. I trucked on though, ice-pick in hand and my headlamp gleaming against the snow. I waited for the light.
When the sunrise lit up the surrounding mountains, my conscious self gained full power and the struggle melted away. The sun brought me out of my thoughts, and I suddenly felt a sense of relief. When I reached the summit, my accomplishment put me at peace. My brain rested and I descended the mountain in a quiet bliss. Back at camp I collapsed into my sleeping bag huddled around a warm crackling fire, and I realized that I didn’t just summit the mountain--I had conquered the thoughts that had plagued my maturing mind.