How Climbing Mountains Helped Me Overcome Fear
The first time I ever climbed a mountain, I was terrified when I started. However, within a few hours, I learned how climbing mountains helped me overcome fear in so many ways. Climbing a mountain is a great metaphor for the journey of life. As this time of year is the perfect time to hike in Nepal, many of my friends are on their way to base camp and few more are heading to the summit by the end of May. I thought this would a great time to revisit my own first experience hiking to the top of a glacier in Switzerland, back in 2004.
Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating. – Denis Waitley
Within one week of my arrival to Switzerland in the summer of 2004, I was invited to go hiking with a few friends up to the glacier not far from where we were staying. At this point in my life, I had only been hiking up a mountain a handful of times, and did not even own hiking boots. I agreed and had absolutely no idea what I was getting involved in, but it sounded like fun and I trusted the team of people who had invited me to go with them. How many of us have ever said yes to something without really knowing what we were getting involved with? And since we trusted the person who invited us, we went ahead and did it anyway?
We left early in the morning and in my inexperience I only packed about 1 liter of water, no additional sunscreen and just a couple of sandwiches. No hat or hiking boots; not even a ski pole. The first portion of the hike was challenging, it was fairly steep and tiring – I was not in shape at all! We got to a portion of the hike that was on a scree slope – it is a sheer drop off on one side and you are walking on loose rocks. Did I mention that I am scared of heights? And at that point, I was getting pretty nervous. So I took out my camera and started taking pictures – I looked around at the beauty surrounding me and kept my focus on the goal – the top of the glacier. Ever notice that sometimes we get our heads stuck looking down and we get scared, but if we just straighten up and keep our eyes focused on the goal, the fear seems to evaporate?
After a few hours, we made it to the edge of the glacier, and at this point, I was meant to stay behind and wait for the more experienced mountaineers to go to the summit and back. One of my buddies had an extra harness and crampons, so they offered me the opportunity to join them. I had NO IDEA what was in store for me, but I did it anyways. Looking back and knowing what I do now about mountaineering, they took a huge risk taking me with them as a complete beginner. As a team, they knew we could take care of each other. This is one key to success, you may not have a clue what you are doing, but if there is a team of more experience people around you who are willing to guide you on the journey, all you have to do is accept their help.
The experience was stunning – I took over 75 photos and enjoyed every single moment of the journey. I smiled the whole time and was completely overwhelmed by the beauty – as we walked up the glacier we could see more and more peaks until finally we were surrounded by mountain peaks. At the beginning of the journey we could only see the glacier directly above us, and as we progressed, we could see more and more of our surroundings, until we had a bird’s eye view of all that surrounded us.
Reaching the top was exhilarating. I was hungry, dehydrated and exhausted but that no longer mattered. I had gone to the top, with my own two feet, with the help and support of my team. I could not have reached the top without the team, I did not have the experience or the knowledge. They had done this before and they knew the route and the safest path. I trusted them completely and they took me to the top.
The journey does not end there; the most dangerous part of the journey is the way back down. Glaciers begin to melt in the hot afternoon summer sun and the risk of avalanche becomes much greater. I was still in my place of total happiness and joy and was completely oblivious of the risks. My teammates knew the risks but to keep me from being afraid, they stayed positive and gently encouraged me to pick up the pace.
The most challenging part was the last and steepest part of the glacier before we came to the solid path once again. The snow was melting and slipping out beneath our feet. Yet I was not afraid and still enjoyed every single minute of it. There may be times when we take great risks, but if we have trust in our team and in our leader, we will feel no fear. Staying in an attitude of joy and happiness can get us through even the most challenging times.
Finally, after 12 hours we made it to the bottom. I was completely drained, exhausted mentally and physically – yet I had fallen so deeply in love with the mountains that I committed to continue my journey climbing peaks all over Switzerland. I purchased all of the necessary gear and when I went out again, I was more prepared and more successful each time. And by the end of my seasons in Switzerland, I was the one leading people up some of the smaller peaks.
It’s important to reach the small peaks quickly, to gain momentum and to fall in love with the experience. Life is meant to be fun, exhilarating, joyful, challenging and uplifting – so take the risk and start up your first peak today. Work with mentors and ask them for guidance. And for those who have already scaled a few peaks, look to your friends and colleagues and invite them along for the ride. For the journey through life is long and there will always be peaks and valleys, but if we live in a place of love, joy and gratitude every bit of the journey will be UNFORGETTABLE.
It’s important to remember to be grateful for the journey. When we are laser focused on our goals, we can forget to enjoy the view along the way, even though the view at the top is spectacular! Find the joy in every moment as you climb towards your greatest vision and goals.
Tues April 18: I’ll be speaking at a USANA event in Edmonton. Tickets are now on sale! Guests are always free.