When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Always give 110%.
Never, ever give up…
…except when things get too hard. Then by all means, you should probably give up.
That’s a (not so difficult) decision that I made during a hike up one of China’s most famous mountains.
One of my favorite sites so far has been from my hike up Yellow Mountain (黄山). It felt good to get outside, use my legs, and breathe in the refreshing mountain air.
The night before my ascent, the woman at my hostel recommended taking the tram up part of the mountain, then walking the rest of the way to the hotel. She said that it was a very quick and easy walk.
Great! I’ll bring my gigantic book that weighs 20 pounds because it’ll be nice to have something to read. Oh, and I’ll bring a few extra shirts just in case they get too wet. How about a full bottle of shampoo in case they don’t provide any? Food and drinks on the mountain are expensive, so I’ll bring three huge bottles as supplies. Great idea, Cara! You’re so ready for this.
That day, I woke up at 5:30am to catch the bus to the base of the mountain, with my backpack full of unnecessary provisions.
There were mountain men waiting at the base of the mountain, offering to carry peoples’ bags up the mountain for 200 yuan (about $30).
One quickly zeroed in on me. Easy target, right? Single female, huge bag, bright-eyed, and optimistic.
He walked with me for about 15 minutes before he realized that I’m too far too strong and I don’t need his help. That, or I’m far too stubborn to let someone else help me carry a bag.
After the first round of stairs, I could feel myself breathing harder, my legs burning, and I was fully regretting my hefty packing decisions.
Quick note: I am deathly afraid of heights but I have never let that stop me from an adventure. I’ve been bungee jumping, skydiving, and I’ve even stood on the balcony of the 3rd floor of a building (yes, even that turns my stomach).
There were some points during the hike where it was difficult for me to appreciate the stunning beauty that surrounded me because I was too scared of falling over the edge and plummeting to my inevitable death.
I was planning on getting up to watch the sunrise over the mountain, but snowed all night. The forecast called for rain starting in the evening and continuing into the morning.
I had no desire to hike down a huge mountain covered in snow and ice, so I cut my trip short and hiked down the next day.
By the time I made it to the bottom of the mountain, everything was wet—my bag, hair, shoes and socks, and clothes. I didn’t feel cold (yet) because I had been hiking for the past 5 hours.
I got on the bus to take me back to the nearby city. Unfortunately, the driver wouldn’t leave the bus terminal until the bus was completely full. That took about 30 minutes.
So there I was… just sitting on a bus with no engine running, soaking wet and shivering.
Finally, the bus took off. The heat remained off and I could see my breath for the entirety of the bus ride.
Then we stopped the main bus station and had to transfer to another bus. That bus didn’t come for another hour. So I waited again.
Still cold. Still wet. Still shivering.
You’re probably thinking, “but Cara, you were at a central bus locale—wasn’t there heat in the building?”
Nope. No heat. China doesn’t have centralized heating, just individual units. I’m not sure why, but the doors were propped open. And it was snowing outside. SNOWING.
So there I sat yet again. Still cold. Still wet. Still shivering.
I was miserable.
Even after all that, I would do the exact same hike again in a heartbeat.
I was on such a mountain high after that experience, that I was anxious to get up Mount Emei, another famous mountain near Chengdu.
This time, I was prepared. I packed lightly, dressed warmly, and was nothing but optimistic for my next amazing mountain adventure.
I had significantly less time and flexibility for Mount Emei, so I couldn’t do as much hiking up and down it. That’s fine, I thought—as long as I can catch some beautiful scenery.
After two hours on the bus, I made it to the cable car checkpoint. I sleepily opened my eyes, looked around, and saw nothing but snow.
I knew that I would have to hike about 1.5 hours to make it to the cable car. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem if I had some great views. But I could barely see past the trees around me. Visibility was low and my resolution was even lower.
I got off the bus and walked around, testing the ground beneath me. The conditions were miserable and I really didn’t feel like getting wet, cold, and slipping, both up and down this mountain.
Here’s the one picture I took on Mt. Emei:
I had to ask myself: do I really want to put myself through this just so I can see some temple (I feel like I’ve seen a million temples) and some Buddha (it wasn’t even a big Buddha) at the top of the mountain?
I don’t want to make any lemonade and I refuse to give more than 45%.
Sometimes you just gotta know when to give up.. or in this case, when to turn around, get back onto the bus, and ride down the mountain to get a massage.