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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Be Bold, Start Cold

the group rose at 6 in the morning to eat, get our gear to the mules, and begin our trek. the night before we had been told we would be rising around 2,000 meters in the air, and walking the entire day. and walking uphill.

we ate our last meal of bread and butter as we set out towards the trailhead with our guide americo. we later learned that americo usually does our trek in 9 hours, while we would be doing it in three days.

I began to become used to the phrase be bold, start cold. in the morning of our first hike, I couldn’t figure out why this phrase really mattered, as we were starting with the sun on our backs and I was wearing the least amount of clothing as one could while trekking. but, as we climbed further into the sacred valley I began to realize each time we stopped, I got increasingly colder, I wanted to put on more and more layers. this was because as I sat down to drink my water, my sweat began to cool off, decreasing my body temperature.

if I had waited to put on layers, then I would have actually been warmer when I reached base camp. but, I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. layers were somethign I could control, meanwhile the fact that base camp was still hours away, was something I could not.

the group was incredibly supportive of each other, and began to sing spanish songs as we saw we were reaching the saddle of the mountain, where are camp was supposed to be.

once we reached this ridge, the entire group was struck by cold wind, and quickly unbuckled their backpacks and eagerly placed their layers on. well, the entire group but me. I had already placed the little layers I had, on. I didn’t see a point in panicking because we could see where our camp was.

but with the wind against us, this traverse across about two football fields of space, this was the most difficult part of the day for me. I could see myself falling behind in the pack, and it took all of my leftover energy to keep walking towards our campsite.

I collapsed on the ground when I arrived, extremely cold, and feeling quite loopy, but there was still work to be done. if I wanted a place to sleep, I was going to have to get up and set up my tent. once the tent was secured into the ground, and we ensured we wouldn’t fly away in the night, one of my irrational fears.

I blew up my sleeping pad and hopped into my sleeping bag with all of my layers. my escape from the cold was sleep. I awoke in a daze, being told that dinner was ready. quinoa soup. it warmed me, but not entirely. I was given more layers and was told I was crazy for wearing my trekking pants to sleep. I needed to immediately change into long johns and fleece pants over it.

I was so tired I couldn’t even have tent talk with zora. in the morning, we were once again told to be bold, start cold. I kept repeating that I wasn’t bold at all, and I watched in awe as grace, who had experienced the winters of wisconsin, take off all of her layers and start in a tshirt.

we were going to climb to our highest elevation that morning, 4,800 meters. as we climbed, could feel myself struggling to breathe, and so could those around me. americo showed no difficulty in the thin air. the snow covered mountain loomed ahead of us, but I was determined to reach the top.

that became my mantra for this trek, to just keep going, because at the end it would be worth it.

and it was. once I had a positive mentality I could overpower my need for more sleep or more food. I could just simply walk. all I had to think about was one foot in front of the other, and then the trek became all the more managable.

I sang The Climb by Miley Cyrus to myself, and was reminded of the episode in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when Kimmy describes that you can do practically anything for 10 seconds.

one step at a time, 10 seconds at a time, I began to feel bolder. I was able to see views that looked as if they were from the movie Avatar, and I was surrounded by 10 other students who were as in as much awe as I was.