How I accidentally hiked Camelback Mountain

And the lessons I learned along the way...

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When I started the trek up Camelback Mountain… I never anticipated to come back down with changed perspective.

I was visiting my good friend in Phoenix, AZ for a long weekend and we wanted to check out some trails around Phoenix and Camelback Mountain was ranked #1. As you drive up to the mountain, you think ‘okay that’s pretty high but doable’. (LOL right)

We decided to hike the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain. To give you a little background, the Cholla trail is approximately 1.4 miles and you will gain 1250 feet in elevation. Honestly, when we decided to do this trail, we had no idea that it would be as difficult as it was. Hiking and understanding how elevation works was and IS not in my repertoire.


With very little prep, sneakers on and a water bottle in hand, we started the Cholla trail. Up, up, up and up we went.

Less than a 1/4 up Camelback… I had no idea what we were in for!

About a third of the way up, we took a break. At this point, we thought we were almost to the top…. and we weren’t. We had more than halfway to go up the mountain and we still had to finish the hardest portion of the trail. (no joke, I thought I was almost there I’m pretty sure I almost cried….)

Reaching the Peak

It took us approximately an hour and a half to reach the point, where you have to ‘rock scramble‘ the last 1/4 mile to the peak.

I didn’t have a clue as to what rock scrambling was, until I physically did it. Basically – you have to climb up the rocks, where you have to use both your hands and feet to scale the boulders.

I’m probably the most clumsy person that you will meet ( four broken limbs and surgeries later)… so this was definitely interesting experiment to see if I could do it without falling or tripping. I’m proud to report that the only casualty was our only water bottle. (not my smartest move by far, being in the desert and all…)

But through it all, we reached the top; red-faced, crazy thirsty, jello legs and all. And boy was it worth it. The view took my breath away.


Camelback Lessons

When we decided to climb down after resting at the top – I had a sense of loss. As fatigued as I was, I wanted more, more exhilaration and more challenge. I wanted to see how far I could push myself before I couldn’t go any more.

Hiking back down to the base of the mountain really allowed me to reflect on this experience. Here are my major take-aways:

You can push through pretty much anything you put your mind to.

Pain is temporary and the worst of it is all in your head. Mental strength is more important in this game, than actual physical strength. My own worst enemy is myself, telling me that I can’t do it, that I’m not strong enough. But you’re only as strong as you think you are.

The journey is more awe-inspiring than the peak, and the peak was pretty damn amazing.

Don’t get me wrong – hiking this mountain was painful, both physically and mentally exhausting and I had a hard time breathing (hello altitude). However, the most incredible moments of this journey happened when we had the chance to turnaround and not finish, and we pushed through anyways. We might be too stubborn for our own good, but I sure am glad that we did.

It’s better to make the journey with a support system or someone who will push through the pain with you.

To quote my good friend, “We always do things the hard way.” Having that support of another who has the same push to finish made this trek all the sweeter. I would have NEVER made it up the mountain without her to support and push me on.

Finish Line

Starting this trail, I had no sense of reality of how arduous this journey would be, nor how eye opening it would be. And I’m so glad that I didn’t. I don’t think I would have had the same experience or the same capacity to finish had I known how difficult it was going to be. The trail is rated “extremely difficult” and that it was, but I was here to climb Camelback Mountain, and climb Camelback is what I did.

Have you ever ‘accidentally’ or maybe not accidentally climbed a mountain (figuratively or literally)? What unknowingly difficult journey did you finish? What did you learn on your journey? In the comment section below, tell me about a time you accidentally did something that changed your perspective! 

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