In January I climbed Pinnacle Mountain for the first time. I wrote a blog about it. I was so darn scared, hanging on to those little skinny trees for dear life while Joe Jordan hopped and skipped up and down the mountain.
So of course I had to climb some more. I wasn’t going to let my fear of that mountain defeat me.
I’m in better shape now than I was in January, and that certainly helps. The six hour hike in Hilo with Tom, Nevin, Joe and Michael gave me a lot more confidence about hiking and climbing. I’ve even graduated to the East Summit side of Pinnacle, also known as the “hard side”. I’ve taken several of my friends up Pinnacle for the first time, memorable trips with Kira, Melissa and Sana. But every single time I go up and down that mountain I’m scared. Not as much, and not as often, but I am scared.
Sunday I went up with my friend Steve.
Steve has done a lot of hiking and climbing, and is an incredible natural athlete. He is also very analytical and not shy about voicing his opinions to me. So it made for an interesting climb for me.
One of the things I like about the East Summit is that it is steep enough that most people with common sense would use hands and feet to climb. I actually prefer it because I have four points of contact between me and the mountain, instead of trying to balance on one or two of my feet while climbing. Steve and I did not take the same route up the mountain. He looked for the areas where he could stay up right and walk/jump from rock to rock. I just barreled ahead and climbed and crawled. We both got there. One of us was much more graceful than the other, but I’m not naming names.
At one point he stopped me and I got a bit of a lecture. He wanted to know why I was climbing the hard way. He said “you have the strength, you have the balance, you have all the tools. You just don’t trust yourself”. And then he did a circle, jumping from rock to rock, some of which were extremely narrow. He looked like a human mountain goat and I was incredibly envious. Then he told me, “you just have to work on the basics”. So I followed him. By now we were at the top of the mountain, so it was like walking across a level field of rocks. He deliberately stepped on the narrow and scary rocks, by passing the nice big flat ones that I would have chosen. It was kind of like learning to walk on a balance beam that is lying on the ground. No real danger of falling any distance, but it let me develop the skill of balancing.
So why am I talking about all of this?
How many times do I crawl and climb and take the difficult route because I haven’t mastered the basics. How many times do I wobble because I don’t trust myself? I have the tools and the skills, but for some reason I’m not willing to go for it. Fear of falling. Fear of failure.
Sometimes I can figure it out for myself. I can step back, see the problem, and come up with a solution. But other times…wow. I’m just climbing, and slipping and sliding, so busy trying to get to the top without killing myself that I don’t take the time to evaluate what I’m doing and improve on it.
Steve calmly gave me some pointers. And you know what? I was willing to listen to him because he obviously knew what he was talking about. I’m not willing to try to learn from someone just because they say they have the knowledge. He literally “walked the talk” on the top of that mountain. He got my attention.
At one point he had me balancing on a big rock. My heart was racing, I was full out scared and wobbly. He kept telling me I could do it, that I had the skills and the balance. But I wasn’t moving. Fear had me paralyzed. Then he held out his hand and it made all the difference in the world. That point of contact gave me the confidence to take those steps. Next time I climb I’ll find that same rock and try it again.
We all have the skills within us for the climb. But we have to work on the basics. And sometimes we need someone we respect to show us the way and lend a hand.
And thanks to Tom Callos, Danny Dring, and Randy Edwards for being people I can respect and learn from. As I get closer to the date of my 5th Dan test I realize how much work I need to do on my basics. But I’ve got excellent teachers that I respect. What more could I ask for?