The only way to conquer your fears is to face them. Beautiful sentiment. Much easier said than done.
I can always remember getting that jelly-legged, butterfly-stomached sensation when around heights. I’m not sure where it’s come from or why, just that all my memories with heights in them have that same sensation. Weirdly even whilst writing this I can feel it and typing has suddenly become much harder because my hands are shaking (you’ll have to excuse any typos – I’m writing as though from a great height apparently!).
Lately I’ve been trying to get rid of this fear with quite a bit of fierceness; I never want to be held back by it. I will always go up to the top of buildings or cliffs for the view despite how it makes me feel because I don’t want to miss out. I’ve started bouldering, which the other day I realised that as my confidence has grown, my fear has lessened. Discovering that on top of the bouldering wall did get a remark from my friend about the sudden grin on my face as I thought this! I’m even about to learn to climb with ropes, which I can’t wait to try – higher walls but safer with ropes, I’m not sure how my body will react to that!
The great thing about facing your fears is that as others learn that you’re doing this, it helps them to face theirs; I recently had a friend tell me how she was worried about running again because of the pain in her knee (she hadn’t run in over six months) we went out together, took it slowly and gently and she came back with that same grin. It was so good to see; especially since I knew that it helped her to relieve that frustration that she’d felt from missing out.
The weekend before last however, I faced it without realising I was about to. I did my first Snowdon summit. Rather than taking the Miner’s Track like most people on their first go, my friend and I decided we’d do the Watkin’s Path. A friend of ours recommended it and told us we’d get some good scrambles with it - always good for a work-out! The first challenge I found myself facing, was the dreaded edge. The view was spectacular, it overlooked a lake but the drop was fairly sheer. But I sat on the edge, and looked out because I refused to not see or experience all of it.
After that we had a mini scramble along a broad ridge line; I can’t decide if it would have been better or worse without snow but as it was I was never quite certain what I was treading on; either boulders, moss or uncompact, unsupportive snow! I began to realise that I felt fear from lack of confidence in my surroundings so I needed to trust that I was capable in order to overcome it. The sense of pride I felt when I looked back afterwards was brilliant – the fact that it ‘wasn’t as bad as I first thought’ just validated my need to keep trying.
The next real challenge came when scrambling up the last part of the path to the summit of Snowdon; my gloves were wet through from using my hands to pull me up, which meant my fingers were getting cold, (an achievement in itself for me, as normally my hands are boiling)! My calves were pumped from scrambling and my core and arms hadn’t had this sort of consistent work out in a long time – even up the bouldering wall! Whilst I was worried about it, I was actually concentrating too hard to become afraid and as the cloud had dropped and our visibility was limited, I had no sense of distance above or below me; I was in my own little bubble but weirdly I think it all helped.
The snow felt like polystyrene balls, making the path difficult to find and use and the last slope was about 45 degrees with minimal visibility but I’m so glad I didn’t go up the Miner’s Track for my first time up Snowdon! It was so much fun and completely worth the challenge to get to the top!
We had to change our route back down because we probably wouldn’t have been able to get back safely without knowing the route properly, one challenge was enough for the day. On the path down though we bumped into another #GetOutside Ordnance Survey Champion (what a great first encounter - though I'm sure we scared her with full snow gear, buffs and ski goggles). Apparently our timing was perfect; she was considering turning back as people had been telling her to do so because of the weather. She was so close that my friend and I turned around and went back up with her because it was only 15 minutes away! It was my second summit of the day and first for her! It was completely worth it.
Sometimes fear helps and warns you but sometimes you need to master it so that you don’t miss out. I’m so glad that I’ve proved to myself that training the mind as well as the body can really pay off and give you experiences that previously might never have been possible for you.