Reaching YOUR Summit by Hanna Draddy Pautler

Dec 20, 2023 | Hanna Draddy Pautler

I recently went on my honeymoon in Bali and spent two weeks alongside my husband soaking in the sun, playing in the ocean, and summiting a nearly 13,000 foot mountain. When we returned everyone asked us, “Wow how was paradise? Did you relax the whole time?” In response, as the pitch in my voice rose an entire octave. I say “something like that”! Our journey was completely underestimated by us both. The day started with a 5 am wake up and a two hour drive to the base of the mountain. From there we had a two hour hike to the first rest-site where we had lunch. This portion of the hike was something I was familiar with – some uphill and some flat land.  Nothing too crazy. We asked lots of questions wondering how long it would take to summit and if we were to summit that day. They had said, “Oh no. We are just going to base camp today.” Dom and I thought to ourselves, “We could totally summit this today.” That was our first mistake. 

It took us 11 hours to hike to base camp. Base camp was higher than any mountain I have ever hiked in my life. The campsite was situated well above the clouds. There were multiple times on the hike that I wanted to quit but I had to keep going. There were many times that I tried to not breathe so loudly as each step I took was inch by inch. I turned to Dom and said “I feel like I’m the only one struggling out here. Everyone is passing us and I feel like I’m always the first one to say I need to stop for a second”. Dom responded, “This is challenging for me too.  Everyone moves at different paces”. 

Twenty minutes later we passed the people who passed us as they were sitting on the ground taking some deep breaths. For the rest of the trip that was the pattern of each hiker, pass and get passed. It finally started to feel like MY journey, not me trying to catch up to other people’s journeys. I learned it was alright to go at my own pace and we all walked (quite literally) very different paths. If you know me, you know I am just a little competitive, so this realization and acceptance was a breakthrough to say the least.

It was unreal. The next day was different in difficulty because I knew what to expect. We were climbing up this mountain, climbing up ladders, sliding down because the rock was so crumbly and then climbing back up the crumbling ground. Everyone woke up at 2 am to summit in time for sunrise at 6:30. But not one person made it in time. We made it to the last peak before the summit and it all clicked for me there. I have pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and I reached my summit. I knew I was not in a position to push myself physically and reach the summit. The treacherously steep terrain plus my exhaustion was not something I was willing to mix together. Dom and I made the decision to stop at that last stopping point right before the summit and hike back down. I was so proud of myself but the only thing holding back some excitement was the idea that there was another peak that many others got to, but not me. I was proud of myself yet I was still judging myself for what I did not accomplish rather than what I did. I had to reflect right then and there to make my final decision. Either go up the summit and push myself past all the previous strength I had exuded or accept what I have done and don’t look back on what could’ve been and be proud. I knew the decision to stop and go back down was exactly what I needed in my heart. To accept who I was in the moment, not who I could be. And to know that personally I had accomplished something big. I learned to be ok with my performance even though others had gone farther than I had. I wasn’t willing to settle. I was willing to break the comparison of myself to others and be my own fan rather than a critic.