In a World of FKTs, I Prefer to Go Slow. Really Slow.
“I really did spend 16-plus hours covering fewer than three miles”
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I’m not a fan of bragging, especially about so-called accomplishments in the outdoors. Smashing records, claiming titles, putting my name down in the books for posterity, all this strikes me as utterly ridiculous. Just this once, though, I feel compelled to toot the badass horn, trumpet the awesomeness of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. You see, yesterday I finished a project—a bold, visionary, paradigm-shifting expedition—on Camel’s Hump, a 4,083-foot peak in my home state of Vermont. A small but mighty landform, her bald summit rising proud from the central ridge of the Green Mountains, she’s my own personal Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the World.
I first climbed the Hump at age four, partially riding on my father’s shoulders, partially scrambling on my own pale, pudgy legs. We followed the Burrows Trail: 2.4 miles, with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet. That early encounter with braided roots, black mud, lichen-splotched schist, and a dizzying 360-degree view was impactful, formative. Since then I’ve returned there in all seasons and conditions to explore, experience, engage. I’ve jogged amid October’s swirling rainbow leaves and bivvied in January’s blizzards. I’ve sledded powdery troughs and strung hammocks between hardwoods. I’ve tiptoed barefoot and tiptoed in crampons. Basically, I’ve exhausted myself by approaching the inexhaustible Hump from a thousand angles.
But yesterday’s outing, damn, it broke new ground on this old familiar peak. Sixteen hours, twenty-three minutes, nine seconds: yours truly set the slowest known time!
It wasn’t easy. My body wanted to fly up the miserable hill, to spread its wings and soar, while my blathering mind, accustomed to caffeine abuse and rapid-fire internet stimulation, fought nonstop, undermining my confidence, attacking my resolve with insults and ultimatums: You idiot, who cares, this is boring… I’m gonna crack like an egg and land you in the psych ward… drop the hammer or else. By the tenth hour, I’d sat on enough rocks and gazed at enough mottled birch bark to last a lifetime. Ditto listening with closed eyes to birdsong. Ditto chewing twigs and caressing ferns. Day slipped into night. Fingers went cold, ankles hurt. Tree line proved elusive. The Hump—the itsy-bitsy Hump, the knock-it-off-after-work Hump—morphed beneath my boots, expanding in every direction, stretching to fill the universe. Chomolungma indeed.