Or more comically known as, Courtney’s worst nightmare…
That’s a bit exaggerative and to be quite honest it was one of the most amazing experiences I have tackled to date. Facing a fear (an unrealized fear at that) and coming out on the other side is an absolutely indescribable feeling. I’ve never been afraid of heights, nor have I honestly been afraid of anything physical. But starting my ascension up this mountain brought out a panic I have never before experienced. I was scared, legs shaking scared, like full-on panic attack scared.
According to Merriam-Webster, to hike is to walk a long distance especially for pleasure or exercise. This was only partially accurate in this instance. Walk a long distance? Sure. For pleasure? Yeah, I had the preconceived notion it would be. For exercise? Without a doubt. What it does not mention, or maybe it is hidden somewhere in the fine print, is that hiking may/can cause anxiety to surface as your path narrows and grows steeper, it did exactly that.
At the base of the mountain the scenery is serene (pictured above on the right) and appears to come straight out of a scene from the renowned film The Sound of Music. Also at the base of the mountain is a small sign distinguishing the different routes up the mountain. I chose the only familiar one, the one which estimates your time of ascension to the peak to be somewhere around 2hrs and 40min. I looked down at my watch and thought “Perfect! It is only 11:30. We have plenty of time to reach the top, have our lunch we packed that morning paired with a normal celebratory beer and soak up some of the sun and scenery before descending.” Wrong, wrong, wrong …
The beginning was easy. Picture a beautiful open and wooded forest with a trail large enough for a couple of bikes to maneuver about freely. This was okay for Courtney. After about 20 minutes of “hiking” the path begins to narrow and the trail begins to head a little more, well, up. This is when I began to create a little bit of distance between Courtney and I. I would continue up the trail at a steady rate thinking Courtney would stay close on my heels. After about 45 minutes the anxiety within Courtney began to rise. I was noticing that, as we climbed, so did her anxiety. The inner coach in me kicked in and I went into Coach “K” role encouraging Courtney to continue while offering incentives like a water break at the next ridge. This worked quite well. After stopping to catch our breath and have a banana Courtney decided to inform me that she had never been on a mountain. It was also at this point that she informed me that she was not sure she could make it much further. She was physically exhausted and growing more terrified regarding the terrain. I must credit her here. I mean, this is a Mountain. A very unforgiving mountain at times (it has claimed a few unfortunate lives) and she was willing to make it this far to the half way point. After much discussion, and some more words of encouragement, we decided to push her limits a little bit further and see how far we could go.
This is where things began to change a little bit from hiking, to full on climbing. I mean there are literally steel rods pegged up a 10-15 ft rock face. I’m talking, if you fall here, you are more than likely going to end up with some broken bones and severe cuts due to the rocky environment. Courtney was petrified. At times I would go up first to show her where to put her hands and feet and then come back down so that she could go in front, enabling me to make sure she was putting her hands and feet in those same secure places. I could see it in her face that she was scared, very scared, but that she was also determined. Once the climbing began to level out back into a hike, the path became a little bit more narrow. There was very little room for error without consequence. Again leading by example and marking what step is safe and what is not, we marched on for another 2 hrs, it is now nearing 4 o’clock. Our pace was slow but secure. With absolute concentration and will power we arrived at the base of the last summit. We could see the end! Victory was another 15 minutes hike to the cross which marked the peak. I turned to Courtney and relished in the fact that we had made it this far, but she was done. She begged for this to be the end. It was enough for her trembling body and mind.
There are moments in your life when you will reach this point. Where enough can be enough. Where one’s mind begins to question the difference between adventure and madness. This is the point where people change. They push aside the “what if”. They clear their mind and challenge their soul. They overcome and conquer. With her hand in mine, we marched on …
Needless to say, we took our time coming down the mountain and safely arrived back to our car. The sun was down, and we were spent.
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