Lady of the Wild Woods

Facing Fears on Mt. Chocorua

Mount Chocorua
Mt. Chocorua

It’s no secret that I have been working on overcoming, or at least taming, my fear of heights. I have definitely improved as I’ve been hiking over the last couple of years. I have had two real trials, where I was forced to face my fear. One was on Whiteface in the Adirondacks last winter, and the other was Mt. Monadnock.


Whiteface has a pointy, bald peak, and I had an unreasonable sensation that if I slipped, I’d just roll right down the mountain. Near the top, I had a panic attack and had to stop and just lay down in the snow for a while, until I could collect myself. In the end, and with much encouragement from my supportive partner, I scurried up the mountain to the summit, and I was incredibly grateful that I did. It was a beautiful, well-earned summit.

Whiteface (ADK)

Mount Monadnock was an entirely different challenge. Eight years ago, when my son was in elementary school, I attempted to hike Monadnock with him and my partner at the time but got stuck just beneath the summit. I had not done a lot of mountain hiking—more like long walks in the woods. Monadnock also has a bald top, but it’s more of a dome than the pointy peak of Whiteface. It looked like people were Spiderman, just sticking to the rock and walking up the mountain. I was certain that if I went up to the top, I’d freeze and not be able to come back down. It’s always easier to go up than to come down. I told them to go ahead, and they did. I did not summit that day.

Fast forward eight years later, and I’ve bagged a number of peaks higher than Monadnock, so for Mother’s Day, my now teenage son and I decided to hike Monadnock. I’m not going to lie, I thought about turning back twice. We took the White Cross Trail up, and it was a bit dicey in places, one where you literally have to climb up a diagonal cleft in the rock. But I saw so many others doing it, fearlessly. Some with just sneakers or even sandals, so I knew it was doable. No one was falling or getting hurt or scared like me. So I got past that section, and the next section was so much better. I realized then that sometimes there is a tough spot, but it’s not like that the entire way. And you will never know what beauty lies beyond that tough spot if you don’t take the chance. I submitted Monadnock on Mother’s Day 2022 with my son.

Fast forward again to this past Saturday on the Champney Falls Trail to Chocorua. Huiyeng and I were hiking with her two friends, Reese and Kerry. It was Kerry’s birthday, AND she was finishing her 52wav and just needed Middle Sister and Chocorua to complete the list. We tagged Middle Sister on the way to Chocorua, and the trail was beautiful. The fall colors had just begun to pop, and the weather was perfect. It was partly cloudy and milder than we had expected. The summit of Middle Sister was gorgeous with views of Mount Washington, valleys of rainbow hues, and the looming summit of Chocorua in the distance.

We took the Champney Fall Trail to the Champney Brook Trail to the Piper Trail then up to the summit. We followed the trails out the same way. As we began to ascend Chocorua on the Piper Trail, we emerged from the trees and walked along the rock face of the mountain, scrambling over rock as needed. Admittedly I was becoming more anxious. The pointy peak reminded me of Whiteface, and all the rock reminded me of Mt. Monadnock. We got to a section where we had to go straight up the rock to get to the summit. I got stuck there. I went up a little bit then looked back and was concerned I might not get back down, so I didn’t go up any further. Kerry and Reese continued on, while poor Huiyeng stayed with me, doing her best to encourage me and show me how safe it was. The problem was that I couldn’t see beyond the top of the bit of rock I needed to climb, so I didn’t know if was going to be even scarier. I watched probably ten people and two dogs go up and come back down without a problem. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I couldn’t help being anxious. I told Huiyeng to just go up without me, but she wouldn’t. Eventually Kerry and Reese came back down, and I felt so bad, because it was Kerry’s special day, and my stupid fear was ruining a group celebration at the summit. When they saw where we were they said it was literally a sixty-second climb up to the summit, and that I could easily do it. They were happy to go up again if I wanted to go, so I did. I knew it was safe, and I saw a ton of other people doing it, so I just overrode my fear and made the quick scramble up without looking back, and the summit was literally right there. I made it all the way up, and it was beautiful. And just like with Monadnock and Whiteface, I was glad I did it. The fear is unrealistic. I’m not going to fall off a cliff or roll down the mountain. The more mountains I climb, the easier it will be.

The total mileage for the trip was 8.5 miles, and the trek down was just as beautiful as the trek up. I love the fall.

A darting fear—a pomp—a tear—
A waking on a morn
To find that what one waked for,
Inhales the different dawn.

— Emily Dickinson

One thought on “Facing Fears on Mt. Chocorua

  1. Pingback: Camping in Acadia National Park - Lady of the Wild Woods

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