Making the decision to quit on a hike is one of the hardest things you may face on the trail. The last time I bailed on a backpacking trip was in the inhospitable landscape underneath the Peruvian mountain of Ausangate. I came down with a cold or sinus infection of some sort making it hard to breath without coughing heavily. The lack of ability for me to breath with the high attitudes that demanded me to breathe harder during the uphills forced me to recognize the fact that I couldn’t complete the circuit at that time.
When it comes to quitting, the biggest opponent was my own ego. Part of that ego preventing me from making the best decision for myself regarding quitting may be the desire to accomplish something for completeness sake. Perhaps the reason for such as desire is rooted in the fear of missing out, in that I know I didn’t miss anything if I complete it. In a sense, that completeness attitude may actually miss the real reason we head into nature, which is to experience nature. For me, hiking is about the means just as much or even greater than the ends. If it truly the experience and enjoyment of nature we are after, then there is no shame in quitting and returning to experience it when we are in a better situation.
Of course I was disappointed that I couldn’t compete the Ausangate Circuit. What helped was looking back at the experience we did have of climbing the grassy pass around Ausangate before navigating ourselves off the Ausangate Circuit to find our way to the Rainbow mountains off trail and realizing how great that was. It wasn’t the experience I was expecting, but it was amazing nonetheless. Secondly, I knew that I’d return someday and finish the hike for a brand new experience of the Ausangate Circuit. That day came two years later when I found a business class fare sale back to Peru.