I came into this program with ZERO hiking experience, and I am leaving this program having conquered the 4 peak challenge. Originally John, the program director, sent out a mass email challenging us to a 3 peak challenge in Vall De Nuria. The 3 peak challenge involved hiking the tallest mountain peak in the eastern pyrenees (Puigmal), along with 2 other neighboring peaks.
A whole team of us decided to return to Vall De Nuria (some for the first time) to take on our own personal challenge, some being: hiking up a mountain for the first time, hiking while sick, listening to one’s body, pushing past mental barriers, working as a team and many more. All challenges that were overcome were no less significant than the next.
Having previously hiked a mountain peak in the pyrenees my first week in Barcelona (you can read about that in my first blog), I was able to better prepare myself for this one. The beauty about doing things a second time is that you get to learn from the first time, adjust and be slightly more prepared for the next time. Some adjustments and tweaks I made was: packing 2 bocadillos (spanish sandwiches) instead of 1, a large bag of granola (rather than 2 bars), I exchanged the frozen cherries (though they were delish) for 3 homemade peanut butter sandwiches (yes, just peanut butter) and only took exactly what I needed which was the clothes I was wearing, water bottles, my camera, and Neosporin.
Another adjustment made was choosing to take on the 3 peak challenge with only 3 of my group members: Bailey, Francisco and Jorge. In the first hike, we were all within the same pace, and we were working well together. It only made sense to hike up Puigmal and take on some extra peaks with this lovely group of people.
Hiking up to the mountains was extremely more difficult my first time. The weather definitely played a big role. As you can see in this picture, there wasn’t much snow, it was 6:45 am, the sun was coming out and I had beauty all around me. The first hike was gloomy, cold, and there was sooooooooooo much snow. I was able to enjoy the hike up more, even though it started pretty rough (I had trouble getting my breathing right, but once the breathing pattern set, I was good to go!)
We conquered our first peak @9:04am and started jumping and congratulating each other for reaching the tallest peak in the eastern pyrenees. After taking in our first mountain peak view, we mapped out next route to peak #2. We saw a lot of snow headed our way so we took every step with caution. Well, except Francisco who attempted to snow board his way there.
After completing peak #2, I was looking and feeling amazing! As a team, we decided that we weren’t going to stop at 3 peaks. Our bodies were aching to continue and minds wouldn’t let us quit. This was a challenge we were ready to conquer.
Getting down the mountain was harder this time around. Since, there was so much snow the first hike, we were able to glissade our way down most of the mountain. This time around, that was sadly not an option. This meant we had to take many more breaks, so our bodies can have some time to rest and reset. We took longer getting down because of all the loose rocks, we got off trail, found a new trail which ended up being the wrong trail, got off the trail again and finally found our trail back down to the valley.
There was many lessons learned in Vall de Nuria: pack a lot of food and water, listen to your body, teamwork, trust and most importantly to communicate, observe and make a call. None of us wanted to be the “weak link” or seen as someone that held the team back, but we made an effort to communicate how we were feeling, how our bodies were feeling and collectively made decisions on water breaks, food breaks, mental breaks and body breaks. We put each other’s well-being first at all times and had the most epic experience, one that i’ll never forget.