I'm working the Your Turn Challenge and today is Day 6. Here is my post to answer the question: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself. (I have written about this climb previously on this blog.)
I am not and never have been a climber. But I climbed a mountain once. Not just “hey let’s do that three hour hike to the top of this hill” kind of climb. An actual all day, clip into a safety cable, use your hands and feet to climb, scare the crap out of yourself, climb.
It was 1992 in Cortina D’ampezo. I was backpacking around Europe and went to visit work colleagues one weekend who were working on the movie Cliffhanger. The friend I was staying with said, “Hey we are going to climb a mountain tomorrow, you have to come with us.” I knew she and the other friend were not climbers and were not necessarily any more fit than I was. She also said, “It’s a climb for beginners, anyone can do it. I’ll loan you come cold weather clothes.” Since I had come to visit her, I figured okay, we’ll go hiking. The scenery is awesome (in the true sense of the word) so if nothing else, I would enjoy the views.
This is the mountain we climbed: The Col Rosa. (This is a view from the climb - image from the link.)
About three hours in/up of regular hiking through forests, we arrived at the via ferrata - the safety cable that you clip onto to actually climb. About ten minutes into this climbing part, t I was terrified. Terrified for two reasons. 1) it was scary to actually be climbing a high mountain almost straight up! 2) I didn’t think I could do it, I thought it was too hard.
Clipped on and not too far up, I considered backing out and saying, “Hey, I’ll meet you back at the parking lot” and hiking back the way we had come. I think I might have even said out loud that I didn’t think I could do this. My friends told me I could do it and that I couldn’t just quit now. I didn’t take it as a “don’t pussy out” kind of challenge. My personal insecurities ran to the “don’t be inconvenient, don’t make it harder for them” place. So I stayed and I climbed.
I am so glad I did. I was terrified all the way up that cable (that part took about 2 hours), but one small step, one small handhold at a time, I did it, we did it. We bagged that peak.
When we finally got back to the car, I was exhausted and exhilarated and so glad I didn’t quit. I really surprised myself that day.
And now whenever I think something is too hard or scary because I’ve never done it before, I look at this picture of me that my friend took on our climb. I can see the fear and uncertainty, but I also remember the utter joy of having gotten to the top.