The Tooth of Time
Written by Charlotte, Venturing Crew 1346
My chest was burning from the lack of oxygen reaching my lungs. My legs were aching from overexertion. My head was pounding because the blood was rushing so fast; it felt like my hands were starting to go numb. I started to regret climbing this mountain that has become a symbol of triumph at Philmont. 1400 feet to the peak—that’s it, I thought to myself. I just have to concentrate. Thousands of people climb this peak, the Tooth of Time, to conclude their Philmont treks every summer.
Our Crew Leader, Michelle, stuck by my side. She was having difficulty breathing because of her asthma. All the boys in our crew started to rush past us, even though they were told not to. Slowest (at this point, us) are supposed to go in front to pace everyone else. Yeah, right…
Why do they call this a hike? It’s really bouldering at almost a vertical angle. Most of the boulders are big enough for stepping-stones, but others are as big as cars with no footholds. These are difficult to climb, even though we were wearing hiking boots meant to grip them. I have to do this. At the very least, to tell my mom, who badly twisted her ankle a few days earlier on the trail, and who is now sitting on a comfy cot in an air-conditioned room back at base camp. With television. And flush toilets. She was lucky; we‘d been missing civilization for almost two weeks.
“I need another water break!” I called out. My water bottle, which was filled to the brim when we left our campsite, was now less than a quarter full. Not good.
With each step breathing got harder. I had to stop. Air wasn’t reaching my lungs. I was taking in big gulps of oxygen, but it wasn’t enough. Breathing in as deeply as I could, I still felt like I was drowning. My vision became blurry. A wheezing sound came from my throat with each inhale and exhale. That was all I was focusing on. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I tried to hold my breath to slow down my breathing. Tears of frustration ran down my face. Someone offered me comforting words I could not hear. Finally, I could make out “Try to be calm; you’re hyperventilating. It’ll pass.” It was our Advisor, Mr. Gaul. He seemed a little awkward, probably because I’m a girl and he has two sons. He doesn’t know how to deal with tears. I wanted to laugh, but it would have used up too much air.
I remember seeing Michelle’s face: a mix of shock (probably from seeing me cry) and panic (from either not knowing what to do, or from thinking we wouldn’t make it to the top after all), or both.
Finally, after a few long minutes, breathing became easier. I was still a little shaky, but we started again to climb the boulders the rest of the way up the Tooth. Just a little higher to the top of the peak…
I climbed over the boulder, and the view took my breath away, figuratively this time: a three hundred and sixty degree panorama of Philmont. Beautiful green mountains sprouted out of the desert that expanded in every direction to the horizon. A hawk coasted by on a wind current. Thousands of ladybugs covered the rocks for some mysterious reason we never did figure out.
I will always remember the most spectacular view of my life. That day I found my physical limits and moved past them. Now I know how to push myself. I know I can keep going and survive, even though I feel like quitting. This is one of those moments I will never forget.