December 19, 2004

I met the mountain and the mountain won

I am afeared of heights. I have been since I was a child. Nonetheless, as I described in the post below this one, I attempted to scale the volcano Pacaya with my sister in law this morning. It was great fun, even if it kind of kicked my ass on the way up. Well, maybe the altitude had something to do with it, too. I got about 90% of the way up when my fear of heights kicked in something fierce and I kind of froze half way up this trail. Also, did I mention that I could not see much more than 5 feet in front of me at this point? The clouds were that heavy and we were right in them. I knew that on one side of me was a fatal drop into a bowl of cooled lava and I had no real grasp of what was on the other side. Oh, and the trail? Black volcanic sand so you were slipping and sliding the whole way. I just decided, as my anxiety mounted with each step, to stop and I sat right down on a volcanic stone. I know it was volcanic because it left a little bit of itself in the palm of my hand. It didn't hurt, I only noticed it because I was bleeding. So I made my way back down to the bottom of this trail and waited for my sister in law to make her ascent and then rejoin me.

I had time to think, there, alone in the cold. And it was mighty cold and windy. I came to a conclusion that I will share with you here, after I contemplated my fear of heights and my desire to try anyway. Here it is. I have certain limitations but life is about trying to push those limitations from time to time and either expand them or learn to accept them and live gracefully within their confines. I accepted a limitation today. But only after trying and climbing a very steep mountain trail for about an hour and a half.

My title said that I met the mountain and the mountain won. Untrue, as I think about it. I did meet the mountain but I learned something and I think I call it a draw.

Amusingly enough, I had a very pleasant chat with a fellow who is going to be doing a joint venture between his company and another foreign company with US law to apply. I was able to steer him to a good lawyer in Miami. If it was NY, I have no doubt he would have retained me. That's right, I can go up a volcano in Guatemala, knowing not a soul other than my sister in law, and come down with a new client. In any event, my wife and I are having dinner with him and his wife tomorrow night in Antigua.

Posted by Random Penseur at December 19, 2004 03:32 PM

i agree...the mountain didn't win.

Posted by: standing naked at December 19, 2004 06:05 PM

Great story, and yes, the mountain didn't entirely win, it only thinks it did :)

I have a similar story from high school of me on the wrong side of a ski run, clinging to snow and shale with my ski boots on and holding my skiis. Trying not to slide all the way down to the trees below, and trying not to let my skiis go either. Luckily after about 20 minutes or so of being there (it may have been 20, it felt more like 200), the run shut down and a ski patrol guy helped me get down. Black diamond run... beginner/mediocre skier... not smart.

Posted by: Oorgo at December 20, 2004 01:48 AM

Nice... and I agree - cat's game. :)

Posted by: Hannah at December 20, 2004 08:14 AM

Erm... The mountain won. You accepted that, and learned/decided to live that acceptence. That's a victory for you, too -- to learn what your limitations are.

But it's not a victory over the mountain or your fear of heights, it's a victory over regrets about never discovering your limits.

So, I think, it's not really a draw so much as it's a wash.

God, I'm annoying... ;)

Posted by: Tuning Spork at December 20, 2004 11:04 PM

A draw is a very respectable outcome when facing a mountain.

Posted by: Jester at December 21, 2004 01:56 AM

The same thing happened to my daughter when she climbed half-dome. At the very top, there is only a steel cable that you must put special gloves on to haul yourself up with. She was okay until she happened to look down and saw a helicopter *below* her. Someone down below needed to be rescued.

The sight of a helicopter below her freaked her out so much she lost her nerve and had to go back down.

She called me from there on her cell to tell me what happened, laughing by that point. God bless technology. :-)

Glad you had that experience, though, Random..she is forever proud of having gotten as far as she did. As well you both should be.

Posted by: Amber at December 21, 2004 11:57 AM

You're a better man than I am!

Posted by: Mark C N Sullivan at December 22, 2004 10:22 AM

it's definitely a draw, but you know what's great about a draw? you know you can go head to head with your opponent and not lose. i believe one day you will win.

by the way, i'm jealous your in my country. my sister and i are thinking of heading down there soon

Posted by: merlin at December 22, 2004 09:33 PM
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