My Critic Is Wrong On The Tripyramids

Submitted by Nancy

Mountains: North (4,180) and Middle (4,140) Tripyramid
Date: January 10, 2009
Time: 10 hours
Weather: sunny, no wind, teens
Miles: 9.6
Elevation Gain: 3,450
Steps: 27,657
Trails: Pine Bend Brook Trail, Tripyramid Loop and back

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Short Videos
Nancy at the trailhead
Nancy in deep snow

Your critic is ALWAYS WRONG!
        Marcus Daniels

We head up the Pine Bend Brook Trail, which is very gentle to start. Having a relatively flat beginning to a hike gives us a chance to warm up by easing our bodies into the snowshoe shuffle without having to go up immediately. It also gives me a chance to warm up the old courage muscle as I adjust to the cold. I have a lot of anxiety about being cold that comes from difficult experiences as a child and I carry those experiences into the mountains with me in the winter. Each cold hike helps lessen the emotional charge.

The trail is already packed out and there is a gentleman who starts out about 10 minutes ahead of us. After the first couple of miles, we hit a bend in the trail and see him coming towards us.

"There's too much snow up there. I had to turn around," he says.

We round the bend and immediately see what he's talking about. We are in a ravine. There is a wall of snow in front of us; the slope is very, very steep and there is no trail at all.

Pat is in front and she bravely goes for it, trying to gain enough purchase to move up the side of the mountain. Every time she puts her weight on top of the snow it collapses underneath her and she slides back down to where she started. I give it my best shot and end up lying face first in the snow below her. It is truly impossible with snowshoes. There just isn't anything for the claws on the bottom of our snowshoes to grab onto other than loose powder.

The pivotal moment:

"This is crazy." I say. (Yes, these words come out of my mouth...but who really says them? I figure it out by the end of this report.)

"I'm not ready to give up yet," Pat replies.

I think about what she said. It's still morning. If we turn around, then what are we going to do with the day? We might as well give it a try. And, as I check in with myself, I am fine at this moment.

"Let's just get to there," Pat says pointing to the top of the ravine wall.

It doesn't look THAT far. Pat's fire lights a blaze under my courage muscle and I am game.

We decide to try crampons because clearly snowshoes will NOT work. So we change out of our snowshoes, put them on our packs, pull out our crampons and put them on - not an easy thing to do in freezing cold and deep snow on an incline.

We give it another try. Despite how deep the snow is, the crampons allow us to grab onto the ice way below and we are able to inch our way up the ravine. We take turns leading and before we know it, we are on top of the ravine...and hell yes...we keep going. I'm clear we can do this.

We come to a clearing. There is a blaze on the tree, but it is not evident which way the trail goes from there. We head off in different directions, trying to find the next yellow blaze. I have no luck. I wind up in a pretty open area with beautiful views and very deep snow but no blazes. I call for Pat and she is way up above me and she hasn't found any blazes either.

Pivotal moment #2:

We keep looking. I join Pat up on the ridge and we decide it looks the most like a trail even though there are no markings. So we keep going. After getting up that impossible ravine there is no way we are going to turn around just because we can't find a blaze. Not no way, not no how. We eventually find the next blaze. We get lost at least two more times. Each time we fan out and keep searching until one of us locates the next trail marker. It takes extra time, but by now we are two determined girls. Nothing is going to stop us for bagging these peaks.

We are climbing an incredibly steep section up to the top of North Tripyramid, when I hear someone behind me. I'm embarrassed because I am grunting and groaning, slipping and loosing my footing almost every step, the incline is so steep and the snow so deep. Luckily this section of the trail is lined with trees and the spruce grab comes in handy.

The man below me says,"Gee I hope we are almost there."

I turn around and look at him with gratitude that I get to stop trying so hard for just a moment. I take a deep breath as I speak to him. "I hope so too," I say, but I don't put much stock in what I am saying. At this point, I know the top will come when it comes and I might as well just keep going because lord knows that I am not turning around now.

The man tells me he is with two other people and that they are pretty spread out on the trail. Pat and I continue up, breaking trail, and that is the last we see of them.

We finally, finally reach the top of North Tripyramid at 2 pm. We have another summit to bag before we head back.

"It's late. What do you think?" Pat asks.
"I don't really want to be going down that steep section in the dark," I say. (Ahhh, come on - that is not me!)
"Well. I can't guarantee that won't happen." Pat says.
We look at each other.

Pivotal moment #3:

I turn and start walking toward Middle Tripyramid. I just can't see turning around now and only getting one of the peaks after this much work. We have headlamps and each other and I know we will be fine.

We make it to Middle Tripyramid, take some pictures and head back almost immediately, eating our semi-frozen sandwiches as we walk in our snowshoes. We're back to North Tripyramid by 3:30 and now all we have to do is get down this monster in one piece!

We are tired and the trail is steep, so we slide down on our butts. There is so much snow on the trail that the sliding is pretty slow and safe. And it's a heck of a lot easier than the horrendous slog up the mountain. I whoop and laugh because it is impossible for me not to make joyful noises sliding down the trail. It's payback. For every horrendous steep section slogging up, we get a butt slide coming back down.

We get to the car under headlamp power at 6:45, incredibly proud of ourselves.


When Pat was first attempting the ravine and I said, "This is crazy," I heard what I said, believed myself and did an emotional 180-degree turn and was already heading back out to the car in my mind. There was a voice in my head that was saying, if that guy can't do it - then we can't do it. And when I saw Pat sliding back, unable to move up the wall of white powder in her snowshoes, the voice in my head said, seeeeee, told ya! But you know what? That voice was not Nancy, it was not me.

She is my critic who never believes in me and always has something negative to say about everything 24/7. I bet you have one too. You know, the voice that says, you're stupid or fat or you will never succeed, or you're weak or ugly or useless or incapable or an idiot or you're doing it wrong...that is the voice I'm talking about. Well guess what? Good news! You can kiss your critic goodbye because she is ALWAYS wrong. I've proven my critic wrong on every hike, every trip to the Grand Canyon, and every thing I have ever accomplished. My critic told me I couldn't do it. What does she know? NOTHING!

Yet, every time I hear her voice, I assume it is me and that I, of course, have my best interests at heart and I believe her!!! And then I enter into a struggle inside, the real me knowing I can do this and my critic fighting for me to give up! Why do I even listen to her? I have all the evidence I need to prove she is wrong!

I'm not ready to give up...Pat says.

Give up. That's what my critic wanted me to do. But hey! I do NOT give up. That is not me! When have I ever given up in my life? And when have I ever done what my critic was telling me to do? Not when I was trying to run the first Pumpkin Festival and was told by the Fire Department that there was not a chance that I was going to put even one lit jack-o'-lantern in downtown Keene. My critic said it was impossible, that I had been told no by the officials and that I should just forget it. But I didn't do that. I called the City Manager and asked him for advice. He suggested I go before the City Council and ask them to reverse the Fire Department's decision. So I did. I went to a City Council meeting and pled my case to the Council with the Fire Department guys sitting in the back row. And I won.

I didn't give up when I had 80 pounds to lose and was so ashamed on myself that I couldn't look in the mirror without crying. I didn't listen to my critic who was going wild telling me how gross, foul and disgusting I was and that I couldn't stay on a diet, that I had tried before and failed. My critic was brutal and I didn't listen. And I lost the weight and have kept if off.

I didn't give up when I left my corporate job and started my own communications consulting business and had no clients and a new mortgage. My critic was appalled I would do such a thing, putting my family in jeopardy. She told me life was going to be hard now because I had given up good benefits and a cushy job for a fight to make a dollar. And oh by the way what was I thinking - I had no clients and no talent! But I made Sporborg Communications a success.

Pat's words - I'm not ready to give up - kicked my critic out of my space, making room for me and I was back in the hike. And when I took my first step up in my crampons, I knew I could make it, I knew I had it in me, I knew I was back in me.

As I get ready to start teaching fitness classes on Monday morning for the first time in my life, this hike touches my heart. My critic is loud and keeps tapping me on my shoulder, saying HEY! What do you think you are doing??? Just like she did when I was running the Pumpkin Festival, losing weight, leaving Corporate America and countless other times. But a new chapter in my life is about to start, and my critic can't stop it from happening. I can choose to listen to her and have her chip away at my confidence or I can kick her out and look forward to my first class experience with joy and anticipation.

Pivotal moment #4:

That's it! She's out chillin' in a snow bank, sulking. And me? I'm packing my gym bag, practicing the aerobics, selecting my music.

Getting fit has enabled me to reach the mountaintops. If I can inspire others to discover in themselves the ability to reach their own mountaintops, there can be no greater joy! I know I can do this.

17 and 18 out of the Winter 48