Tarot cards and travel: Principle of collaboration, teamwork/partnership
The Sun is a symbol that supports the ability to generate, motivate, and inspire others in teamwork and collaborative efforts.
The Sun is an archetype that reminds you to remove yourself from depleting alliances and move toward situations that offer inspiration and productive results.
One tiny step at a time
Thin air, deeps breaths, tiny measured steps, all in an effort to retain the energy needed to make the way to the top of a mountain in the frigid darkness. Not sure whether to puke or eat. Body screaming for a rest, mind drunk in a combination of lack of oxygen and euphoria around achieving the goal.
The world of climbing mountains to me, at least in the final hours before reaching the summit.
And for me, success always came through teamwork and collaboration.
So the Sun card in the travel space inspires me to write about my experiences climbing mountains which represent the epitome of collaboration and moving towards situations that offer inspiration and productive results.
And the bright Sun. The light. The achievement and endorphins. The bliss of a few minutes at the top of the world. It’s worth it all.
It’s been a few years now since I felt the pain of hiking boots against my shins on a descent, but back in the day I was an accidental climber thanks to my friend Shawn, who initially opened my eyes to mountains on a trip to Guatemala 15 years ago.
It was more like a hike to the top of Acatanango, but at 13,000 feet above sea level, still significant for me, especially since I only had a flimsy pair of sneakers. Glad I opted for that over flip-flops!
I’m thankful for friends like Shawn, who opened my world up to entirely new experiences. And after Guatemala, we’d go on to some great hikes/climbs around the world.
The more technical areas require cheerleading, excellent communication and most importantly the collaboration of mind and body to work together to achieve the goal.
Two experiences in particular come to mind.
1. The marathon mountain
Five of us climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. Plus a bunch of guides required by the park service of Tanzania. There are several different routes to the top with different time durations, but we chose a longer, more acclimatized path using the Machame Trail over 8 days. It’s known for some of the best scenery on the mountain and was an overall fantastic experience trekking through interesting, diverse topography.
The main challenging feature of our path required a final big push 4,000 vertical feet up the face of the mountain. It takes place in the middle of the night of oxygen depleted air and endless switch backs up a mountainside that seemed to never end. The five of us had to be evenly spaced but also keep all motivated to make it to the top.
Along the way, we each seemed to have our own breakdowns, and at one point during a break I sat down on a rock and fell fast asleep. Benson, the sweetest of guides, physically woke me up and kept me going by saying, “it’s just a few more bends to the top.”
I knew this wasn’t true by looking directly above me at the tiny trail of headlamps which seemed miles away, but I was oxygen deprived enough to go with the idea.
Shawn started exhibiting the early signs of altitude sickness, so our group had to rework plans to keep him motivated to finish, taking his pack and trying to eek out some water from our frozen solid bottles.
Two of our guides broke off to help him ascend faster to the top. The rest of us had pressure to get there quicker to meet for the group photo, which seemed to make sense at the time but now looking back was probably not the safest rationale for either Shawn or us.
But the motivation to achieve this goal as a group proved effective and we all made it to the summit. A few team shots and we were quickly ushered back down to safer air.
2. A quick sprint
In the case of Mt. Rainier, which was a sprint to Kili’s marathon, I was the one who was nauseous as we were trudging through glaciers in the dead of night with crampons, all roped up.
I was last in the string of four people (guide and three of us) which left me about 150 feet away from the guide. For safety, because of the potential of crevices opening up, it’s required to move rather quickly up the mountain, and roped up you have no choice but to go the speed the guide requires.
We brought a lot of different kinds of food to eat because taste buds change at higher altitudes. Something wonderful at sea level, like pizza, could easily repulse on the side of the mountain.
Point of no return
Halfway up the middle-of-the-night climb, there is a point of no return where there are only enough guides to legally take people who cannot finish back to the base camp and the rest of the guides and hikers must make it all the way to the summit. If someone has to come down, say 3/4 of the way, then the whole remaining group must descend.
For a few people it was obvious they were in no condition to go any higher, but others were right on the edge.
I had a fleeting second of dreaming about being back in the warm huts at Camp Muir drinking cocoa but my body told me I could make it to the top.
3am gut check
It was a very humbling moment to see people have to make a quick decision, being true to their own bodies, their conditioning, their health. Half of our group of 16 ended up ultimately deciding to descend, giving everyone else a better chance of safely making it to the summit.
The only food I could muster to swallow was Gu. Somehow at altitude the slimy artificial flavors worked with my system. Every half hour we would make a quick stop and the guides required us to down 200 calories.
They watched us consume energy to be sure that we were preparing with enough power to get to the top and back down again. The Gu packets were conveniently each 100 calories so I choked them down until I ran out.
There was no way I could eat the pizza in my bag or the Snickers, so at the next stop Shawn emptied out the rest of his Gu to give to me so I could get to the summit. It was mostly pineapple flavored. An artificial flavor that I can still taste today. We arrived just as the sun was wandering over the mountains to the east of us.
There was constant movement around collaboration, discussion and teamwork with this Mr. Rainier climbing experience and we were only allowed a few minutes at the top to bask in the accomplishment and take the “hero shots” as our guide called them. Then back down the side of the mountain, now in the daylight.
Before arriving at Camp Muir the guides were very quick to remind us that we were allowed the experience to see the sunrise from the summit of Columbia Crest only because these 8 people were selfless enough to end their dream of climbing to the top of the mountain before it got dangerous.
It was a conflicting feeling coming into the basecamp. Adrenaline rushing from success and also a sinking heart from the faces of those waiting at the camp. A few people asked me what it was like but not a lot of talk about the experience at the top. That was our part of the teamwork. A humble coming together for the final few hours down the rest of the mountain to beautiful Paradise Lodge.
I’m thankful for my experience, and that my mind and body worked together to get me to the summit and back down safely. Although I’m also thankful for pineapple Gu, you’ll never see me eat that again!