Slaying Mountains and Finding Camaraderie

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Sometimes you find camaraderie, high fives and encouragement from complete strangers in the most unexpected places. Or at least when you hadn’t really thought about that kind of support coming at you. For me, it was at the top of the highest peak in Arizona, when I hiked Mt. Humphrey’s a couple weeks ago.

I had made it a goal to summit Mt. Humphrey’s, the highest point in Arizona coming in at 12,866 feet at the peak, a few years ago. I finally accomplished this with two incredible lady and mama friends of mine. We started out of the Snowbowl parking lot, and onto the trail, largely by ourselves most of the way up. Of course we passed people coming down and even passed people going up. We also were passed by hikers faster than us. Or those crazy ultra runners.

But when you get near the top, really that last mile or so, where you’re above 11K feet, it gets hard. Real hard. And the passing of people and those passing you, decreases. We’re all battling the terrain of the peak at that point. Pushing through some of the hardest physical challenges we’ve ever faced. Your body and mind want to give up. Sometimes one more than the other and you push on still. Mind over matter. Catch your breath. Get your footing. Climb.

Heck, the higher you get the less you can even make out the trail. You’ve got to ask for help from people ahead of you. “Is that the way to go?” Sometimes you forge your own path. We’re all trying to figure out how to get to the top and back down in one piece.

We’ve made it this far. And we need each other. Complete strangers. And as I reached the top, slowly, I’ve never felt so much support, camaraderie, encouragement and literal high fives on that trail. And I of course recirprocated. We all did. I was met by three older males as I reached the summit, holding out their hands, high fiving me as I threw my arms and my fists in the air… I DID IT!

As I had the chance to catch my breath at the top, after the adrenalin rush of pushing through and getting my proof of accomplishment photo at the top, and starting our way back down, I got some time to think. I thought, wow, well why can’t life be like this all the time, everywhere, like it was up on that mountain peak. At the hardest part, everyone was supported, by strangers, all trying to just reach the top without falling, quitting, giving up or injuring themselves.

For me, I saw these synergies between summiting that peak and real every day life, down at 7k feet in Flagstaff and further down to sea level. I’ve thought even more about it since I “destroyed” that mountain. That camaraderie, that encouragement, that support and help, both verbal and physical, needs to exist everywhere. People of all ages, different colors, religions, physical abilities, political beliefs, ethnicities, speaking different languages, and from different social circles, climb that mountain every day. We were all up there. We were a melting pot of people. And it was beautiful really. Nothing that matters down at the bottom mattered up there.

We’re climbing different mountains and traversing terrain of all kinds down here on the ground and we can all still use that kind of unlabeled support in our lives every day. Sounds a little cliche, but we all just got to help and love one another more. All those labels and categories that define us down here on the pavement, don’t ultimately matter when you’re slaying the mountains of life.

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Heather Pierce
Born and raised in NJ, Heather left with fire on her heels to attend ASU in Tempe, AZ in 1995, where she obtained a degree in art history, while minoring in both anthropology and French. While at ASU she met her husband Jake and began their loud, crazy, fun filled life together. She’s a full time corporate marketing consultant, freelance writer, is on the board for and chairs the fundraising and marketing committee for Flagstaff Arts & Leadership ACademy, and most importantly, a very hands on and fun mom to two wild boys Zane, age 9, and Van, age 4. They’ve made Flagstaff their forever home since 2010 and Is actively involved in our mountain community, lives for live music, good food and wine, reading books about real life people, and a lover of the outdoors.