Climbing Alta Peak
A Much-Needed Reminder About the Power of Hydration
It’s been over a year since I hiked Alta Peak (a 14.9 mile hike in Sequoia National Park), and I’m still ignited by the adrenaline and endorphins that seized through me that day.
I had only just learned about Alta Peak two days before making the climb. Armed with the AllTrails app as my all-knowing hiking guru, I selected Alta because it was not as highly trafficked as many of the other trails in Sequoia. I somehow didn’t research other important aspects of the trail, such as the fact that Alta Peak has an elevation of 11,207 feet. Perhaps had I read that, I would have been more prepared mentally and with sufficient hydration. I had only packed two bottles of Fat Leaf Water.
I began off strong… at a steady pace, but I soon found that I was very alone on this trail. While I’ve hiked solo many times, I’ve also always been surrounded by other hikers. So if I fainted, or fell, or was approached by a mountain lion, there had always been someone to help. Perhaps the solitude could be credited to the fact that it was the day after July 4th and everyone was sleeping off their hangovers. Whatever the reason, there was no one to save me if I got into trouble. I questioned if I was up for the task. Self-doubt teased me, but I swatted it away.
As I approached the half-way mark, I started to notice a descent that I hadn’t read about. But who would really question a relief like that? So, I kept on walking until I encountered a local (the first person I had seen in hours!), who told me how far off-track I was. He pointed me back in the right direction and urged me to drink plenty of water at this high altitude. Huh, “How high was I??” I had no idea, nor could I Google that, as my cell phone was useless up there. There went three extra miles on top of the fifteen, in the ninety-plus-degree heat, no less!
Once back on track, with a little less pep, I continued on, trying to set my mind right. I saw that I didn’t have nearly enough left to drink. And that’s when I approached a narrow ridge. Feeling a little disoriented, I realized that just a little trip over a rock could be the end of me. Panic graced me, heightened by the lack of oxygen and water.
I was teetering on my mental edge. Did I have the strength to get to the top? Even if I did, should I? Did I have too much pride? Or, was I letting my fear make me think that this was even about pride? I sat down, knowing I had a decision to make. Turn back or go all in.
And all in I went.
I turned on my music. I had been saving that for the end, partially to save battery power, and partially to stay alert to sounds of bears and mountain lions. But when I felt so panicked, “what’s a little mountain lion?”, I thought.
My soundtrack fueled me with a jolt, much more powerful than any runner’s high. I made it to the top, thanks to Whitney Houston’s “Dance with Somebody” as the driving force behind my final ascent.
I didn’t stay up top too long. I was too loopy and nauseous to last any longer than it took to down a bag of Cheez-Its.
As I begun my descent, my fears escaped me and my high only escalated. I wanted to run down that mountain with all of my self-congratulatory spirit. As impressed with my achievements as I was, one thing continued to nag me…. “why was I so dumb to not pack proper hydration? I run a sports hydration company after all!” Clearly my mistake was due to improper planning, and it was one that I will certainly never make again. I know that this lesson is Hiking 101, but clearly I let my excitement for the day get in the way of remembering the basics.
Thankfully I had the opportunity to redeem myself on a recent trip to Joshua Tree. I had spent the entire day rock climbing and hiking, and I made sure to take several more liters of fluids with me than I anticipated needing. As I was getting ready to leave the park, I decided to take my Jeep on the off-road Pinkham Canyon Road, and I soon found myself stuck in a pile of sand, 8 miles from the nearest visitor’s center! Those bottles of water were absolutely essential in carrying me through that walk back to cell service.
Both of these adventures served as poignant moments for me, particularly as the founder of a hydration company. While I have been a strong advocate for the benefits of proper hydration for years, it took these recent first-hand reminders to reinforce just how crucial water and electrolyte balance is for fueling our bodies and minds.
And it brought me a newfound respect for our tagline…. Cure your daily drought!
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Elyse Sara is the Founder of Fat Leaf Water, a cactus water based sports hydration beverage. She is based in Long Beach, CA and will never hike without extra Fat Leaf Water again.