Going off the beaten track

If you’ve not been following me on social media, I’ve been lucky enough to have some time away on a ‘runcation’ with some of my closest friends…..who also happen to be fellow crazie runners!

This last week of runcation saw me heading off the beaten track, quite literally, as we took on adventures that saw us following ridgelines rather than trails and had us relying on maps rather than markers.

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The summit of Mt Torlesse

I love a good adventure, but I am the first to admit that I am a great big scaredy cat.  I’m pretty much scared of anything I haven’t done before. Maybe it’s because I have an excellent imagination and can daydream in technicolour all the things that can go spectacularly wrong, or simply that my bodies innate protective mechanisms are VERY strong. Heck, maybe, I’m actually just like everybody else – and whenever I’m faced with the unknown I experience fear (this last option is probably the most likely!).

Either way, it’s like having Peter Parkers ‘spidey senses’ on overdrive when I venture into MY unknown!

One particular adventure this week challenged me beyond what I had experienced before and had me wishing I had my feet back down on flat ground rather than sliding across scree over 1900 metres above sea level.

“I’m scared.” Words uttered so many times, as I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Feet sliding on loose rock on parched earth as we took on the slow, steep ascent up Mt Torlesse.

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Climbing up through The Gap

The thought went through my head, if something happened to me people would say “at least she died doing something she loved”.  I wanted to verbalise, to set the record straight that no, I would not be ok with that and actually, I would trade never going up another mountain if it would mean bartering my life in such a way.  I was so out of my comfort zone and for some time I just wished that I could be back at camp, having taken on a safe and easy run, rather than this mountain traverse.

The fear passed as we made it to the summit of the first mountain in the traverse, and I had gained some confidence on the terrain and felt more excitement and nervous anticipation as we continued along the ridgeline to the next peak and the next. Ascend, descend, climb, scramble, strong wind stealing away our words and causing my feet to tangle with each step as the breeze forced my limbs sideways colliding into each other.

And then a wrong turn.  After a particularly challenging scree crossing moving in the classic alpine way; ‘one-step-forward and two-steps-back’, and then followed by a scramble up the ridgeline we found ourselves bluffed out with nowhere to go but back down to where we had come from. Hopelessness, resentment, and fatigue overtook and tears threatened to take over.  Could I make it back down and across another scree slope? Did I have the mental capacity to do it? Because at the end of the day it was the mind that was resisting rather than the body. With a friend in front and a friend behind we slowly made our way back down and around the bluff, clambering up the rocks rather than taking on the energy-sapping deep scree.  Finally, emerging through ‘The Gap’ the hardest work was over. More ridgeline scrambling followed, but after all the other challenges of the day the narrow, rocky ridgeline seemed less threatening. It was just a case of finding a line, testing the grip on the rocks before entrusting them with my weight at foot or hand.  

Finally, we had passed the rocky ridge lines and all that was left were the scree slopes back off the mountain at the end of the traverse.  With whoops and hollers we were zig-zagging our way off the mountain. There were screams and laughter as our feet repeatedly slide out from under us and we ended up planting our butts firmly amid the dust and rocks with the type of euphoria and joy that comes from having achieved a mammoth goal, where the worst we encountered was a few bruises, dusty shorts and eyes full of mountain grit from the wind and dust.  The daylight was coming to an end and we descended through rays of sunlight to complete the traverse as the sun dipped behind the surrounding mountains.

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Early evening on the ridgeline

Fear conquered I reflect back to that deal, that barter I would have made for my life.  At the time when the going was tough, I was willing to give it all up for a comfortable life, to not feel those difficult emotions. But, on reflection, I wouldn’t trade all the mountains for my life, because life is the mountains, either real or metaphorical and it is overcoming them that brings the greatest joy through the greatest challenge.

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