I fell in love. I got crushed.
I have written about my climbs on Mt Whitney many of times. From overcoming others' opinions to father-daughter bonding, Mt Whitney has been a symbol of triumph in my life in many ways. What I'm about to reveal to you is the most vulnerable and honest story I have written ever about my experiences in the Sierras. Love can bring a lot of joy to our lives, but the absence of it can bring a tremendous amount of pain. It has been over five years since my first summit and I am finally able to tell you why I did it. They say time heals all. That may be true, but I believe something else healed me. -Lexie
I fell in love. I got crushed. Seriously crushed.
That is how this story begins.
I fell in love for the first time during college and I never imagined it ending. It eventually did and my heart felt like it would never be whole again. The loss of the relationship sent me tumbling into depression as I had never felt so hurt before and couldn't really visualize myself being happy again without the relationship. The cliche "everything will be okay" that I kept hearing from friends and family wasn't working on me and I desperately clung onto the memories that were simultaneously causing me so much pain. I wasn't working out. I wasn't eating healthy. I would go out and drink with friends to numb the pain, but it was still there. I kept in touch with the person causing me pain and tried to keep up a friendship. But the feelings were still there and the friendship ultimately ended some eight or nine months later in the worst way I imagined possible. They were trying to move on while keeping me in their life. I had already gone through depression and I knew I couldn't stumble back into it over the same relationship. We cut off contact.
There I finally was - alone. I started to go on dates, but I wasn't near ready to open my heart up to anyone new. Around the same time, I lost one of my best friends. It was hard and I got through it by clinging onto my other friendships. By this point, I had graduated college and had no idea what I was going to do next. I wasted no time submitting applications since the last thing I wanted was to have nothing. I landed a job and a couple internships within a couple weeks of graduation. Keeping busy was the easiest way to be happy, but I was still lost in the woods. It was beyond scary and extremely stressful.
During this time, I brought up to my dad that I wanted to climb Mt. Whitney via the Mt Whitney Trail. Nothing like wanting to get lost in the mountains when you're already lost in life. The Mt Whitney Trail route isn't technical and my dad had done it a few years before in an impressive twelve hours out and back.
Apart from a few sorority trips to Tahoe, I hadn't spent much time in the Sierra Nevadas in recent years. I lived just over an hour away from the mountain range and 3 1/2 hours from Yosemite while attending UC Davis, but I was stuck in my bubble.
This is where I'm going to backup. Hit reverse. Let's go back to Fall of 2011. After spending the Summer away from partner while studying abroad in the Middle East, a lot had changed. My partner moved an hour away and started a graduate program. I was obsessed with my Senior Year of college and dove head first into Sorority Recruitment and Bid Night parties. We had grown distant and neither of us were truly happy. I had no idea. I was that oblivious character in a novel that has no idea what's coming until the end of the book. He grew more distant from me and abruptly, I cried about it and started a fight. The words "I feel like breaking up with you" came out of my mouth on the phone. I didn't mean them. I was just trying to get my point across. He said he would come over to work things out, but the traffic had built up and by the time he arrived - he knew it had to end.
My words, my initial actions broke my heart that day.
I stumbled into depression. It got to the point where my own boss called me after work one day and recommended that I see a school therapist. I rejected it. It got so bad that my sorority had seen me cry so many times in the house that they called me into our "Member Development" Meeting to try to help me through it. It only made me more angry. I found out years later that they also called in one of my best friends and asked if I was going to commit suicide.
I wouldn't ever.
But after feeling as low as I did in those moments, I understand how some people do. I moped around the holidays and spent New Year's Eve with my cousin who was also going through a breakup. I don't know what initially got me through that depression. Maybe it was hearing others' heart break stories. Maybe it was alcohol. Or the mass amounts of hope I clung onto that my relationship would come back. It obviously didn't.
By the time the relationship truly ended, I had been out of depression for at least six months. I could tell you what caused the end and how horrible it was, but it would make this story about him and it's not.
I also know that it would grab my readers' attention since everyone and their moms are interested in "Love Triangles" but I don't play that game.
When it ended, I felt desperate for a few moments. Thankfully, I never let it get too deep again. I knew I'd be okay without that asshole.
It was time for me to escape - I had the Sierras on my mind and I was ready for Mt Whitney.
As my dad knew how out of shape I was at the time, we both agreed that a 12 hour trip wasn't within reach for me. Instead of a day hike, we decided to backpack up to Trail Camp at 12,000 ft and spend the night for an early morning Summit bid. We both put in bids for overnight permits on Mt Whitney. Be still, my heart.
Date: March 31, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Subject: Lottery Results - Mt Whitney Lottery 2013
We are sorry to inform you that your application to Mt Whitney 2013 was not successful...
Oh, great. Another rejection. Thank you for also breaking my heart, National Forest Service.
My dad's lottery application was accepted, but it was a one day permit and we were both skeptical about my ability to do Mt Whitney in a day since I had never been up to 14,000 ft. We decided to keep checking for returned permits in the Spring and
FINALLY! We got it.
On April 22, 2013, we were confirmed to climb the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S. in June. I couldn't wait as we started making plans about meeting in Bishop at our ol' friends the McCoy's Residence and ending the night in Lone Pine. I could smell the pine trees and feel the fresh alpine air brush against my face already.
By the time the hot heat hit Sacramento, it had been nearly a year since I had last spoken to my ex boyfriend. It had been even longer since I initially had my heart broken. The pain had already begun to fade and I was ready to fall in love again. I did.
I started to fall in love when I was eastbound on the El Dorado Freeway. By the time I was passing Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Markleeville, a spark had been set off and I was in awe with the magic. When Mono Lake came into view for the first time on US-395 S, I couldn't believe it. This is what dreams of love stories were made of. I passed by June Lake and Mammoth Lakes with my heart beating so fast. I still remember what it felt like sitting in the driver's seat of my old little blue Honda Civic with my legs sweating on the fabric seat and passing the turn off for Mammoth Lakes. It was when I realized I was almost to Bishop. My heart beating faster as I had less than 24 hours before the start of Mt Whitney. We spent time at the McCoys, ate dinner at Seasons Restaurant in Lone Pine, and slept at the Comfort Inn. Breakfast at the Inn and we were off on our drive up to Mt Whitney Portal.
That was it - right there. That moment. I fell in love.
My heart was full again the minute I got out of the car in Whitney Portal. That was the moment my heart decided that it was never looking back. I had fallen in love with the mountains. Looking back on that moment, I realized that it didn't taken another boy to help me forget the old. My heart is in the mountains and it's never coming back. That evening, Mt Whitney and I spent a beautiful night together under the gigantic sky of stars as the wind blew through Trail Camp just to prove it was there. In the morning, Mt Whitney and I stayed together the whole day. We laughed over lunch together and had a small argument over how slowly I was packing up camp at Trail Camp on the descent. Overall, we made it through one of the longest hiking days of my life.
There are a few lessons I learned from this experience and have pieced together since 2013.
The first is the life lesson that only you can truly make yourself happy.
While the breakup absolutely tore me apart, I didn't need another person to help me get over it. The mountains did the job just fine.
The second lesson is that the mountains are not like pizza.
The mountains will disappoint you. They will break your heart and they may even break you. You are at their mercy. The mountains are where you are most vulnerable. Being cautious isn't enough. Seeking education will not always prepare you. Experiences may make you tougher, but the mountains don't care what else you've climbed or accomplished in life.
The third lesson I learned is that now that I'm in love with the mountains, I can't stop being in them.
No matter how dangerous it may be.
Today-- I am extremely grateful for Mt Whitney, the Sierras, and all mountains around the world. The mountains have done me such a service by helping me find myself. In 2015, I developed a huge crush on the Cascades and returned this year to try to climb Mt Shasta. It ended up being just a crush this time around and I'm already fully determined to train for a Summit bid next year. Last month, I took a road trip out to Utah for And She's Dope Too's Fall Rendezvous. I was humbled to meet so many badass, outdoorsy women who also loved the mountains. We summited Mt Ogden, a peak in the northern Wasatch Range. It gave me a Summer tease of Snowbasin Resort and I dream of someday returning to Utah to ski. For now, I have plans to ski this Winter in the Sierras and I couldn't be more ecstatic about that!
It still brings tears to my eyes to know that someone was able to knock me down so hard off of my feet. It makes me so sad to think about the pain that I went through when I could have been enjoying life in the outdoors as I am now. It makes me angry to think that someone said words so hurtful to me and made me feel that I wasn't enough. It hurts that I was so vulnerable to this person and they teared apart so many characteristics about myself. I had to essentially rebuild myself and my self esteem. I can forgive, but I can't forget. People that have met me in more recent years have no idea about my short struggle with depression and that is why this is the most open and honest post I've ever written. I hope that my story helps at least one person with whatever they're going through in life. As cliche as it is, it does get better.
I want to express how much gratitude I have for the outdoors and that I am able to enjoy the mountains with my current partner. He has been skiing almost as long as I have so we make for a pretty darn, good team on the Black Diamonds in the Sierras.
Find something you love and find someone you love to do it with. It is the best feeling in the world.