“Climbing Mount Ka’ala” by Brionna Tapia

Posted: June 1, 2013 in Vol. 3: Spring Essays 2013

MountKaalaOahuHItrailI have spent the majority of my day pondering how I will get my boyfriend, Teddy, to do an interview for me. Should I just trick him and let a conversation flow while recording it, or should I just flat out tell him? Nothing seems plausible in my mind, but with a pang of hunger in my stomach and a quick glance in my fridge I know what to do. As the front door shuts, announcing his arrival, I begin to slowly add strips of bacon to a blisteringly hot pan. The house quickly fills with the smell of my victory and as the first groan of hunger escapes his lips, I know there won’t even be a battle.

“Is my Bunbun making me bacon burgers?” he asks, lightly kissing my forehead to join me in the kitchen. As he stands next to me, I dwindle in comparison. Physically, we are the opposite of each other; he has a six-foot frame, muscular physique, charcoal hair and mocha skin; I am a short, non-athletic, blonde with skin white enough to compete with the moon. My parents always expected me to bring home a nerdy little haole boy, not a lebanese/filipino who was a very successful high school wrestler.

“Yep, and while you eat, I am going to interview you.” He purses his lips knowing that I’m not asking but telling. He gives a large sigh, but I know that the smell is caressing his nose into submission. Without another word, Teddy grabs a Coke from the fridge and sits at the dinner table, waiting for interrogation.

Placing the last bun on top of his burger, he finally asks, “So what exactly am I being interviewed on?” The answer to his question has been a tug and pull between various stories he told me, but I have made my final decision.

“When you climbed Mount Ka`ala by yourself.” I want to pry at something that interested me when he mentioned it yet would never go into detail about. Ever since I met him, he had always just gotten straight to the point about everything, always ignoring the juicy details. It is something we have completely different ideas about. He refers to my details and “fancy words” as “fluff, the stuff that clouds the actual point.”

He gives me a sarcastic laugh and responds exactly how I thought he would: “Why would you want to interview me on that? It is pretty self-explanatory; I climbed Mount Ka`ala by myself, and that’s it.” My brows furrow in frustration and I yank his burger away. “Ok! Ok! I’ll go into more detail.”

“How old were you?” I ask, and he sighs once again and places his arms behind his head, pushing his jet-black hair up.

“I was 16 years old and about four inches shorter.” I try to imagine him shorter and I can’t, though I have seen pictures.

“Why did you decide to climb Mount Ka`ala?” This is the question I have been really wanting to ask since I first heard he did it.

“I was angry.” I stare at him puzzled. “I wanted to be stronger, but I think the reason I was the most frustrated was because I couldn’t get a girlfriend.” I remember him telling me about being frustrated with this before and how his friends would rag on him about never having had one and already being 16. My thoughts drift again to our friend Cyrus who has recently climbed Mount Ka`ala because he got dumped by his girlfriend. I chuckle to myself thinking, ‘Mount Ka`ala seems to be what guys do when they don’t have girlfriends.’

“So then what?”

“I felt like I wasn’t enough, so I thought ‘hey you know what? I’m gonna climb Mount Ka`ala.’ But of course I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘OK Mount Ka`ala, here I come!’ No, that’s just stupid, so like a few days prior I actually hiked up to the half way point, which my family called ‘Waikaha flats.’”

“Waikaha flats? I’ve never heard of that.” I laugh, intrigued by the interesting name I have never come across.

“Of course you never heard of it; we made it up! We called it that because when you get there you can see both Makaha and Waianae, so we mashed the words together and called it ‘Waikaha.’”

“Aw, how cute!” I chuckle, then refocus: “But let’s fast forward to the day of the hike; what time did you leave, from where, and what did you bring with you?”

“I left my house ‘round six-thirty A.M. with an apple, gloves, water bottle, long sleeve shirt, backpack and my bike.” He has lived up Wai`anae Valley since he was born, so the actual beginning of the hike is about a mile or so up the road from where he lives. “Oh, and a walkie-talkie because my Dad wanted me to check in at certain points to make sure I was alive.” Alive? My thoughts wander to future questions.

“How far up did you ride your bike?”

“I rode it all the way to the second water tower, y’know, just before it goes from concrete to dirt?” He says it like a four-mile bike ride is nothing, and I subconsciously roll my eyes at his athleticism. “I ditched the bike and chained it to a tree, but it was a shitty looking bike so it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I chained it up or not. By this time I was already super tired and I stupidly used up a lot of my energy trying to get there in under an hour. I actually wanted to give up and just go home.”

I start to think about my own experience of the hike up to that point. We’ve done a hike on that same trail once before with friends, and I wanted to give up when we hit the FIRST water tower. It’s a hot hike, the sun constantly beaming down on you, coupled with flames in your calves from the seemingly endless up-hill road. However, for some reason you have to just keep pushing yourself because you want to find the end, to say you’ve made it. The hike we went on, however, didn’t even go to the halfway mark of the journey he had set out on, and I find it incredulous that anyone would even want to go further than we had gone.

“How come you didn’t go home?” I ask, knowing full well that I would’ve.

“I knew I couldn’t. I didn’t want to go home a failure. So I kept on pushing, more and more. Soon enough I had passed Waikaha and made it to uncharted territory. Now this is when things got sketchy. You see, there are these huge boulders that you have to climb over. Normally you would expect rope to use when you are hiking, right? Ha! WRONG! Dangling over the top of these boulders were computer cords and metal wires strung together to create make-shift rope and–”

“Whoa, wait a sec, computer cords?” My jaw drops. I know that I would have just turned around and gone back home if that’s what I came across.

“Yeah! So there I was hanging from these cords, and if they were to fail, I would die. Like there is just no way to stop yourself from falling, you’d just keep rolling and rolling and rolling! So finally I had made it up the rock and what did I find? My life was in the hands of a shoelace tied to a dying bush.” I’m floored. Just thinking that he continued on that hike amazes me.

“My God! You are crazy! What did you do next?” Just when will the madness end!

“Well, directly after that I took a breather. You know I don’t say this a lot, but I was pretty scared, or at the very least my nerves were rattled. I just sat down next to the bush and collected my thoughts for about 10 or 15 minutes, but I kept pushing on until I finally reached the top at nine-twenty-six.”

“What was the peak like?” I ask, knowing I’d probably never experience it first hand.

“I remember the smell of cold moist air and ferns. The temperature was definitely flirting with freezing but couldn’t land a date, if you know what I mean.” I nod, thinking about the air I smelled on Mau`i up Haleakala. The cold air here in the islands is completely different than the cold air in Canada. The air here just smells clean and alive, while the air in Canada smells empty in comparison.

“How did you feel? Triumphant?” I have to ask.

“Very!” A grin begins to stretch across his face, “It was a great feeling to know I had made it to the top. Satisfying to know that I did it by myself.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I hiked back home and went to sleep.” He says this so nonchalant that it undermines my feelings. He climbs the tallest mountain on this island by himself and acts as if it was nothing. That somehow this challenge that he presented himself with had no possibility of failure. I, on the other hand, welcomed failure with every setback that was thrust upon him.

As Teddy finishes up his last bite of the bacon burger, he fails to notice the motivation he had given me. I recognize that I continuously doubt myself, and it is a terribly negative burden to carry. I know that I have to push through my own challenges and not cower away from them. I need to pursue my own mountains and hike up my own Mount Ka`alas.


Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II


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