Max Smith

When I was twelve years old I climbed Mt. Whitney with my dad. Mt. Whitney is in Inyo National Forest in California. It was the first mountain I had ever climbed. After that climb I knew what I was going to do. I was going climb mountains. I loved being above everything else, the trees looking like toothpicks, the big rivers looking like small streams, and the clouds so close I could reach out and touch them. When I was fourteen I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kilimanjaro is Tanzania, which is in Africa. Climbing Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.


Now I am seventeen and this year I tried climbing Mt. Hood in Oregon. This was the first mountain I ever failed to climb to the top. Although Mt. Hood is only 11,250 feet, the snow changes the entire experience.

I have had to turn around early on hikes before due to weather. But on Mt. Hood I turned around because I was scared. I was scared because I had never done anything like this before. It started out with my dad and I flew to Oregon. The next morning we drove to the trailhead. The guides taught us how to use crampons and ice axes.

After we learned to use crampons and ice axes we took a snow cat up to a log cabin 5,000 feet below the peak. We went to bed a six o’clock. We woke up at three in the morning. I was so tired I could barely walk. We put on our boots and began hiking. The first mile is always hard because I am still warming up. About forty-five minutes in I told the guide that I needed a break. He told me that we would take a break after we hike a mile.

I started slowing down. I was out of breath. I went to the back of the group so I could hike more slowly. When we stopped I instantly took off my jacket, drank water, and sat down. I told the guide that I needed to quit. I told him that I was tired, which I was, but the real reason I wanted to go back is because I was scared. The mountain was so steep that it looked like a cliff. The guide told me that we didn’t have enough guides for me to turn around. I had to keep on climbing.

There was only another 1,000 feet of elevation to the top. The guide said that we had to use ropes for this part. The idea of needing ropes to climb scared me. The fact that it was as steep as a cliff scared me. I told the guide that I couldn’t make it to the top. At this point another guide met us. He had already climbed the mountain and he was on his way down. I said goodbye to my dad while he climbed to the top. I left our group and began hiking back down with the guide. We got to the cabin and waited for the rest of the group to come back.

At first I was sad that I didn’t go to the top. It was my fault I didn’t go to the top. I was strong enough physically but not enough mentally. I didn’t like to talk about it. This was the first mountain I failed climbing. But after a couple of days I realized that what I did was ok. I knew that I could always just try again. I learned that failing isn’t always failing. I could say that I didn’t get to the peak. I could also say that I climbed up to 10,000 feet in the snow. Just because I failed getting to the top doesn’t mean I failed the entire climb. This was something new to me; this was something that I had never done before. It is common to fail something new but if you keep practicing, then you can succeed. I know that in college there will be times when I fail but I now know that I can always try again.

I know I have plenty more mountains to climb.

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Rolling Hills Preparatory School

One Rolling Hills Prep Way
1500 Palos Verdes Drive North
San Pedro, CA 90732

T: (310) 791-1101 | F: (323) 310-9973 
Rolling Hills Prep School prides itself on being a forward-looking, academically rigorous college-prep school with a soul. Every day we provide our diverse student body a high-powered traditional curriculum combined with stimulating and innovative teaching techniques both inside and outside the classroom because we believe that success in college and life is best attained by equipping our students with disciplined minds, sound character, healthy bodies and creative spirits. RHP is a private, coeducational day school for grades 6-12, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, CA.

Renaissance, our sister school, believes that bright students who learn differently can rise to great heights when they become empowered and confident. Visit the Renaissance website.