“Try something different. Surrender.” Rumi
Granite peaks, sharp ridges and exposed trails, well that grabbed my attention. Why not? A new hiking group so I may as well put myself out there. This was a relentless and arduous hike in remote mountains with a group of seven experienced hikers. All in the name of pushing my comfort zone. After driving five hours and traveling fifty kilometers in pitch blackness on dirt road, it was a midnight arrival to camp in below minus temperatures. I swore I would never do that on any of my hikes, that cold, but in hindsight the below minus was nothing compared to the surrender I was about to experience. And seriously, who names a mountain Buggery anyway?
The hike was a 28 kilometer overnight round trip. Day one was meant to take about eight hours but it reached ten. I admit that was my fault. After several hours into the trip as we were hiking steeply down Mt. Buggery, cursing under our breath and sweating profusely, I began to experience severe pain in my leg. Every. Step. Hurt. Becoming worse as I struggled to keep pace, starting to slow us all down, we stopped for a rest before we started the next ascent. And then the tears came. I willed myself not to but between the pain and the embarrassment, they fell anyway. The hiking group declared an executive decision and that was to share my load.
I was beating up hard on myself with that berating voice inside my head. My ego was suffering and I felt quite humiliated. As I sat taking pain relief and sugar energy drinks, the group began to dismantle my 17kg pack, sharing my contents around so they could take all of my weight. This is what physically got me to camp. They also shared their stories of how injury made hiking trips painful for them, and the times they had to turn back because they started the hike thinking they were fitter than they actually were. This is what got me to camp emotionally.
This awesome bunch of hikers cared about my safety and I think they might have been a tad bit hungry too. I jokingly asked them to push me off the side of the mountain so I could set off my PLB for rescue. They joked back that I better not be faking this. The group became about taking care of the weakest person, ahem me, and hiking at my pace. They put me out front and asked me to lead. There was an undertone of concern but also great humor. The only way I could have got to camp and hiked back the next day was accepting their help.
Is there a moral to this story? There always is! Sometimes when I am in my own pain, struggling or battling through, it takes the care of someone else who can not only call it as it is but offer to share the load. Amazingly, when the load was lifted, I could just concentrate on one foot in front of the other without the weight and it was enough to get me home. I still had to do the hiking (and the physio afterwards), that was mine to bear but I was surrounded by support. There is a parallel in my emotional life too, I sometimes am metaphorically climbing a Mt. Buggery in heartache and I cannot “see the forest for the trees”. I am thankful for those courageous and compassionate people who are not afraid to name it, and reach out their hand at the same time. These call outs are what allows me to keep coming home to myself, time and time again.