A Message from Mary
News, a thank-you, and a timeless post on the art of self-arrest
June 18: “I just completed the first 201 miles from South Pass City to highway 70 near Encampment, Wyoming. Now have a two-day drive to Glacier. Will start from there as soon as I can get a much-coveted permit. Then, knee willing, I have 1,350 miles back to South Pass City. Thanks for your support.”
This message from Mary to her supporters came to me in an email, along with a request to post it here. Mary also sent a photo of her knee iced in snow—this portion of her hike crossed a mountain range (below). There will be more snow up north. Mary wrote the following post in early May, while practicing with her new ice ax in Vermont in preparation for the second half of her Continental Divide Trail thru-hike. After pausing in early June to rest her knee, she was able to finish this 200-mile segment. —Sara Tucker, editor, Korongo Books
Knowing how to stop myself if I go sliding out of control down an icy slope is a critical skill for me to have before setting out across the snowy passes in Glacier National Park. It’s been twenty years since I’ve practiced. I hope I remember well enough. I have to know how to do this whether I fall head or feet downhill, landing on my stomach or on my back.
As with everything for me these days, I can’t help making the correlation between hiking and life and hiking and writing.
Sometimes I find myself spiraling out of control in my daily life. “Oh, my God, I am such an idiot” or “I can never get this done. I might as well give up now” are some examples of one kind of fall. Another is falling into obsession, not wanting to stop writing to even eat.
I am working to self-arrest my emotional falls by first recognizing the danger of being in certain situations, my metaphorical icy slopes. Then I hyperfocus my attention on
the task ahead, taking small steps, one at a time, to avoid a major fall. I cut new steps into the landscape when there are no old ones to follow. Just as I use my ice ax as a tool to help me stop falling, I will rely on my friends for support when my emotional slide warrants it.
Practice makes perfect. I will keep practicing staying in connection with those who care about me, the ones who will catch me when I fall. And I will set off to find a snowy slope to throw myself down, practicing the skills of ice-ax self-arrest I learned so many years ago.
Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half in 2021. Read more of Mary's story.