My friend approached me online one day, blabbering about his plans of travel. I was not paying too much attention until I heard him mention the Four Sisters’ Mountain – a four peaked, snow-covered mountain, located in Sichuan Province, China.

As a huge fan of traveling and backpacking, I have climbed many mountains, hiking the trails formed by years and years of tramping human feet. There is a famous saying among China’s group of backpacking maniacs: “Everyone should at least climb a snow mountain once, cross a desert once, chill by the sea once, and start traveling as soon as the idea of traveling jumps into their head, without hesitation, once in their life.” Instinctively, I realized that I had found my opportunity to accomplish the snow mountain portion of this goal by joining my friend’s trip.

After careful planning, we started our journey last October. We made several stops in some cities like Chong Qin and Cheng Du but eventually arrived at Ri Long Village, the small village at the foot of the Four Sisters’ Mountain where every climber starts his trip. We hired a local guide and rented two horses to carry our huge backpacks. On the first day, we spent around 13 hours getting to the base camp, 4,200 meters above sea level on the Second Sister’s Peak.

A combination of my recently caught cold, the chilly mountain air, and altitude sickness had me feeling ill, but I went to bed at 6:00pm that night in order to get up at 1:30am the following morning when we would start our journey to conquer the top.

We set out at 2:00am in the darkness. The only light came from our headlights, incapable of lighting more than a small space directly in front of us. Handicapped by our lack of sight, we walked slowly with small steps. We stopped frequently to rest, and both of us thought about giving up. But we learned to encourage  and cheer up one another so we continued upward.

We finally reached the top of the mountain at an altitude of 5,276 feet after seven hours. The sun had come up by then, illuminating the breathtaking view of the mountain range, letting us know that our persistence had been worthwhile. On our way down the mountain, neither of us could believe that we had conquered such a steep and rocky path. I realized then how much persistence and determination matter.

Before my trip up the mountain, I had hated the winters in Rochester. This had become an excuse for me to not go outside, stopping me from participating even in student activities. During the fall of my sophomore year, I stayed in my dorm room, studying and watching TV to kill the time. I felt depressed about my life and had no incentive to change it.

Life can be dingy without the lights on. Maybe this was why I took time off during the supposed-to-be study years. My trip of three days helped me to find the meaning of life, which is that persistence and optimism are all that truly matter regardless of the setting.

When I returned to campus this semester, the whole world seemed to have completely turned around. The previously hated winter and snow were no longer problems. It is amazing how much fun I have found in both school work and student activities. Now, whenever I hear a friend complaining about the cold winters in Rochester, I feel sorry for them. They haven’t learned the lesson I have learned.

From now on, I know that no matter how harsh the environment, if I just keep working hard and maintaining a positive mindset, I’ll be able to find the beauty in life.

Liu is a member of the class of 2016.

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