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Hail to The Mountain
I have hiked a lot of treacherous hikes before but I have never stared at a mountain as imposing as the one in the horizon. After a one-hour drive, we finally reached the hiking trail on Mt. Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. My whole family was speechless as the temperature dropped 30 degrees and remnants of snow appeared on the ground. My mom was the one who broke the silence. “I’m not sure I want to go much higher.”
Geraldo, our Andean guide, said, “You can turn around when you feel tired and have had enough, but we should try to stay as a group. Also if you start feeling dizzy, tell me right away. You might be getting altitude sickness. Walk very slowly, because it is very easy to faint, at this elevation, if you walk too quickly.” We all got out of the car and tried to adjust to the elevation. After a few minutes, we began the hike behind a group of German tourists.
“Mom, I’m bored. Can dad and I jog up the mountain and meet you at the top?” I asked.
“No! Don’t get too big for your britches. You would probably faint and I am struggling just to walk,” she said. So, we continued to walk as if we were on the moon and every step counted for something.
Five minutes later, my mom whined: “I’m too tired. I am going to head back. You can continue to hike until you want to turn around. I would suggest you stop soon though. The sky seems to be turning very dark.” Before anyone could say anything, my mom was a blur as she headed down the mountain. My dad, sister, Geraldo and I continued the hike.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed that the skies were getting even darker and the wind started to pick up. “I’m scared,” my sister says, “I want to go back.” My dad told my sister to sit down for a little and wait with the guide, while he and I continue to hike. Then, everything changed. Giant pieces of hail began to rain from the sky and bounce off our heads and faces. It felt like I was standing in the middle of the driving range while people were hitting me with golf balls. We could not see more than a few feet in front of us.
Being the persistent person that I am, I said, “It’s just a little ice. We should continue hiking to the top.” But after ice pellets began clouding my vision, I had second thoughts.
“Zach,” my dad uttered, “We are heading down. No if, ands or buts.” For once, I agreed with him. We quickly found my sister sitting with the guide in the same spot we left her. She was so terrified that she was crying. “Wait here a second, Zach while I talk to your sister. Then we will all walk down together,” my dad screamed. The guide was furiously trying to cover my sister with blankets to shield her from the hail.
After a minute, I decided that my dad was talking too long with my sister, and decided it was time to evacuate – with or without my family. I screamed, “Dad, I am going to run down myself. I can’t wait. The hail hurts too much.”
“Wait Zach!” he shouted. But it was too late. I had already made up my mind. I started sprinting down the mountain, trying not to slip on the ice. The last thing I heard my dad say was, “Come back here. It is not safe.” Then it was just the mountain and I. As I ran, the storm kept getting worse. Soon, the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see where I was going. I just prayed that the next step didn’t lead off the mountain. Then, I saw it in the distance like a beacon of freedom or a lighthouse in the snow. It was Geraldo’s car with my mom sitting in it. I knew I would live to climb another mountain.
My dad, sister, and the guide soon came walking down the mountain covered in a coat of ice pellets. My sister was crying, convinced that I was lost in the blizzard. It may have been the happiest she ever was to see me. My dad, however, wasn’t so happy. I don’t think my family will be hiking on snow-covered mountains anytime soon.