“WE . . . SHOULD . . . NOT . . . BE . . . UP . . . HERE . . . RIGHT . . . NOW!” my friend Alexandra screamed to us over howling wind. Even with forty-pound packs on, the wind was nearly blowing us off the mountain. Huge raindrops fell from the sky and hit us on the head like a barrage of tennis balls. I struggled to keep my eyes open as rain collected in my lashes. The fog was so thick that I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face. I could feel the ice-cold water rolling down the inside sleeves of my jacket and soaking into my gloves, making my hands go completely numb. On the plus side, the numbness helped me forget about my aching muscles. It was only the third day of our trip but there wasn’t a single muscle in my body that wasn’t pulsing with pain. I frantically swiveled my head around in the hopes of spotting a painted red “T,” the trusty trail markers we had been following for nearly thirty miles now. All I could see were the vague outlines of my friends huddled against boulders, desperately trying not to slip down the slick granite. Alexandra was right: We definitely should not be on top of this mountain right now.
Sixty miles in six days. Five friends and I were backpacking around the Lysefjord in Norway and, as with most things in my life, it was a very last minute and hastily planned trip. The extent of research I did was Googling the definition of “fjord” (for those of you who don’t know: (“A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea or lake drain, with steep land on three sides”), briefly scrolling through images of the Norwegian Fjords, deciding in under a minute that I definitely wanted to see them in person, and buying a plane ticket. We didn’t think much about terrain or weather, two things most people would agree are essential when planning a backpacking trip. That’s the thing about my friends and I, though. We don’t plan, we just do.
We learned very quickly that ten miles a day in the rocky, muddy, and often vertical terrain of the Lysefjord was going to be, for lack of a better word, a bitch. By the end of the first day, my boots were already soaked through and I had grown accustomed to the loud squelch of my feet every time I took a step. So, here we were: Stuck on the top of Kjerag mountain with some half-eaten sticks of salami, soaking wet boots, and no idea where to go or what the hell to do. I had to wonder, had our recklessness taken us too far this time? At the bottom of the mountain, we had had the choice of continuing straight along the trail to our camping destination, or making a four-mile detour up Kjerag to see the popular Kjeragbolten, a rock famous for being wedged in the crevice of the mountain roughly 3,245 feet above the fjord. Despite the rain, fog, and high winds at the bottom of the mountain, we started up the ridge without a second thought.
And thank god we did. Thank god we didn’t stop to think about the consequences of charging up the near-vertical cliff. Thank god we were reckless enough to see one of the most unique places on earth. Kjeragbolten took my breath away. It dangled precariously between the edges of the mountain, taunting us to climb atop. I looked over the edge and immediately felt dizzy from the sudden drop into the water. The ferryboats looked like tiny specks below us, as if we were on the top of the world, watching the rest of the globe like spectators. The fog started to clear, replaced by an immense sense of pride that enveloped us as quickly as the fog had. I realized then how important it is to embrace that youthful adventurousness. I’ve never been so grateful for my friends’ and my thoughtlessness – it was what brought us to the top of this mountain and what led us to feeling so empowered. So the next time you’re faced with a difficult decision, don’t be afraid to not think about it. Be a little reckless, be a little stupid, and charge up that mountain without thinking twice. Otherwise you might never experience being on top of the world.