How do you climb a mountain? One Step at a Time

I recently took a holiday and visited Scotland for some walking. If you’ve never been to the Highlands, I would seriously put it on your must-do list. The Glen Coe and Nevis national park has some of the most stunning scenery the British Isles have to offer.
Anyway, Amelia and I decided to climb Ben Nevis and reading up about possible routes, we opted for taking the more challenging Carn Mor Dearg route from the North, which all the guide books said really did the mountain justice. The Tourist route from the south doesn’t give decent views of the immense North Face and is really just a steady plod up a well worn path, rather than an exciting scramble across rocky ridges to the top, which we were up for.

However, the advisor in the visitor centre felt it necessary to warn us of the seriousness of the route. Our guide book suggested it was a 10-12 hour round trip, Amelia and I explained we were fairly fit and he said a fit person should do it in 8-10 hours, but it would be “a hard days walking”. I made up my mind that we would be at the lower end of that time scale and we set off at a brisk pace to attack the mountain.

Now, I’m sure Amelia will reluctantly agree with me that we both have slight issues with our ego and admitting we are struggling. So, it wasn’t until much later in the day that we both admitted to each other that that first section had nearly destroyed us both and had us worrying for the work ahead. We’d pushed a really hard pace and overtaken loads of people along the way, but both of us were having those negative thoughts (you know, the doubts you get during a long CrossFit WOD).

I reflected later on those thoughts and considered the lies that my mind had come up with: “I can’t do this”…..”I need to slow down”……”I’ve bitten off more than I can chew”. Why do our minds give us these unhelpful thoughts and seemingly torment us, rather than positive ones that will provide the support we need? Regardless of the complex reasons for this, I believe that one of the most important rewards of doing CrossFit training, is the ability to ignore the thoughts when they come, seeing them for what they are (BS), and carry on regardless. This ability can then be applied throughout the rest of our lives (work, families, relationships etc.).

Towards the end of the final push to the summit, I was really struggling again, and was searching inside for some inspiration. The saying “One Step at a Time” came to me, and I realised I was focusing far too much on how far I felt I had left to go, rather than being present and just focusing on the next bit ahead. I’ve done a bit of meditation of the years, and was able to use that to refine my focus, and the difference was dramatic. By not wasting valuable energy in stressing about what lay ahead, I freed up my efforts to tackling the next step only, and the work became easier and more enjoyable. As it turned out, I’d underestimated how far we’d climbed. Mist had rolled in and when I thought we’d reached a plateau a few hundred metres from the top, we’d actually reached the finish and were greeted by the site of the old observatory on top of the mountain.

So, the moral of the story? Our negative thoughts are unhelpful and often completely unrealistic. Chose to ignore them and focus on taking the next positive action.

Our final time, by the way, was just over 7 hours. The guide book simply didn’t take into account that we are CrossFit !!!

3 Responses to "How do you climb a mountain? One Step at a Time"

  • Kate says:
  • Cathie says:
  • Amelia says: