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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Zigs and Zags

When your day starts at 4:30 in the morning and you are on hour 8 of a 12 hour day, with still 4 hours of uphill to go, there is very little holding your mind back from completely unhinging and your body reverting to exclusively mechanical efforts.  Because of this, our group started debating about the importance of the Zigs and their opposing counterparts, the Zags.  What is a Zig, you might ask? Well, a Zig is the part of the trail that goes across the mountain to the right, and is usually a bit steeper and rockier.  Because of this extra effort, you must ATTACK the mOUntAIn and rally together with the school of Zig (Proffessor Sam Hollister and Proffessor Hannah Babe) to conquer the switchback.  Conversely, Zags are usually a bit gentler, go to the left, and are full of Incan tomatoes.  According to Proffessor Jesse Moore and Proffessor Jackson Sides, heads of the school of Zag, to Zags, it is not about the destination, but about the journey, and it is more important to appreciate the vistas of the cloud forest and nearby glacier than it is to finish a Zag.  According to historian Danielle Mullings, the Zigs and Zags used to have peaceful relations and live in harmony, but because of some meddling on part of the UN and the redistribution of resources, the Zigs and Zags remain forever divided and in constant war, forming the divided state of Zig and Zag.  This debate between the school of Zig and the school of Zag continued on trail, at every ‘descanso’ (rest) for the rest of the four hour uphill.  It got intense at some points, with the school of Zag accusing the Zigs to be nothing but mere warlords, and the school of Zig accusing the Zags of being passive and lazy in character.  The debate ended with no clear winner when we finally reached the camp of Maizal at 6:30pm and dissolved into hysterics, after 12 hours of walking, but even now, there are still rumbles of the long-forgotten conflict of Zig and Zag.

This hilarious running joke on trail, though absolutely bizzare and absurd in retrospect, was one of the many things that made four more hours of hard, steep uphill just a little bit more bareable for the group.  Going uphill is truly more of a mental exercise than anything, because after a while, it becomes nearly impossible to think of anything else other than putting one foot in front of the other and breathing.  Even though in retrospect the great Zig or Zag debate seems ridiculous, on trail, it was essential to have something else to think about because it raised group morale and kept our minds off our own physical difficulties. I didn’t pick a side, but it was extremely entertaining to watch everyone get so invested in their team and debate over the importance of their team.  Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.