“If you despise the mountains you have climbed, you are not welcomed by the mountains you have yet to climb!” – Mehemet Murat ildan
Yesterday I climbed Mt. Snowdon, the tallest mountain in England, Wales and Ireland. After about 5 minutes of walking up the entrance to where the actual mountain began I already wanted to give up. The initial shock of the steep slopes on my legs was terrible. Unfortunately that was just the beginning.
By the time we got a quarter of the way up the mountain I had no idea how I was going to to make it to the summit. We had only been climbing for about 30 minutes at that point, but my legs were already tired and sore and it felt like my muscles were wrapped so tightly they might break the bone. By the time we reached the small cafe that marked the halfway point I was questioning my sanity for taking up the climb in the first place.
Had it been under any other circumstances I would have been snapping photos left and right. The view from Mt. Snowdon truly is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my short life. In between the thought loops of wanting to quit and and the mumbled groans I was making under my breath, I would look over at the mountain ranges, but I was unable to really appreciate them at the time.
As we moved closer to the summit the slopes got steeper and more difficult. At one point the rocks would be so tiny and wet that I’m surprised I didn’t slip and fall back down. At other points the boulders were so large it felt more like climbing stairs than climbing a mountain. The clinging mist also got so bad that the views that once offered at least a little bit of solace disappeared all together.
I must have told myself “I’m done” a million times on Sunday, but a million and one times I kept pushing, and after an hour and forty five minutes we made it to the summit. The feeling was overwhelming. It was a mixture of one part relief, one part ecstasy and two parts agony. The temperature at the summit was around 45 degrees, about as cold as it gets during the worst parts of a Florida winter. Coupled with the mist and high winds, the temperature was enough to get us to go down about 50 meters to eat our lunch behind some shelter.
Not to get all mushy and whatnot, but the high altitudes, exhaustion and pain have a funny way of making you feel very introspective. During our lunch and our walk down from the mountain I really started thinking about how my excruciating climb up Mt. Snowdon is only one of the mountains I’ve climbed and will climb in my lifetime. When I was pushing 220 pounds two years ago, unable to run even short distances without getting winded, I would have never imagined I’d one day summit a real life mountain. It’s not just a physical thing though. Over the last two years I’ve come an extremely long way in figuring out who I am, what I want, and working towards realizing what I want to do with my life. There’s been times when I’ve worked a 40+ hour week, gone to all of my classes, and found myself with piles of more work to complete before I had to do it all over again. There’s been times where I’ve felt lost, confused and alone, left to figure out how to navigate the slippery slope of overworking myself in pursuit of my dreams and goals or saying “I’m done” in the face of what looks and feels like an unbearable mountain. Looking down from the summit however, I realized that if I can find the strength to push through it, to say “I refuse to be done,” I can accomplish all the goals I’ve set out for myself. Everything looks small and insignificant from the top of the mountain.