The poetry of mountain climbing

Here’s Peter McFadyen guest blogging for Life Support on his poetry of mountain climbing.  Love adventure?  Peter does.  

Mountain Climbing is now one of the joys of my life (and for those grammatically inflexible amongst us; yes I do realise that I have capitalised “Mountain Climbing” but that’s how I pronounce it in my mind).  Once I had recovered from climbing Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro to the extent that I was no longer adamant that I’d never climb again, I began to look into the changes that I had discovered in myself since the climb. 

I found increased levels of self-confidence, an inherent trust in my ability to take on challenges and do well.  I found the yardstick against which I measured challenges to have grown taller, making any challenge I now came up against seem that much smaller.  I was also much more comfortable with being uncomfortable and so my resilience and ability to persevere were greatly increased.  This is a very pleasant way to live life and I found that many of my previous peaks and troughs were now smoothed out by the personal growth and awareness I had gained by taking on challenges and seeing how my actual experience matched my expectations on how I’d go.          

Man climbing ice Something changed – I was part of the mountain and it was part of me.

Something had fundamentally changed in the way I viewed the world and the way I viewed myself and my place in it.  This was not by the way of increased ego, or a superman complex, but more in an increased sense of myself, my place in the world and an ease of living that was borne of experience.  In short, I was happier being me and more confident that I could make a worthwhile contribution to the planet – albeit in a small way.   I also knew that when it came right down to it, I could push myself to achieve and that I would enjoy the experience no matter the effort required. 

Another joy of my life is poetry.  I love reading it, I love discovering new verses and finding the message within them and I love writing it.  Consequently I have a love of the ‘notes’ area on smart phones as I will often be doing something and a phrase will pop into my head.  From discovering that phrase I will normally have a fully formed poem a few minutes later.  I’m not sure how that works and at times I believe that I am just a way of the poem coming to life rather than having ‘created’ it myself. 

In this instance I was driving along a back road and saw a mountain peak in the distance.  Rather than just thinking “Wow that’s pretty” or “I wonder what that’s called” my thoughts immediately ran to “I wonder how I’d climb that?”   What?  Why that thought?  I realised that, having climbed a mountain, I was in some respects a ‘mountain climber’ and my view of the world had changed.  I then thought, “having climbed a mountain” – I could do something with that.  And so the following poem came to life:

Having climbed the mountain

Having climbed the mountain, there can be no “un-climbing”

Your view of the world is forever changed

You have outgrown yourself to be there

And having outgrown, you no longer fit into your life as you once did.

Having climbed the mountain, you have made the sacrifice

You have left something on the mountain

You have carried something away with you

You are no longer the person who commenced the climb

Having climbed the mountain, there is now a question

Each time you see a peak, you ask “How would I climb that?”

These may be physical peaks or challenges of the heart and mind

All peaks must be met, just needing time and devotion to task,

Turning from a peak is no longer in your being

Having climbed a mountain there is now a void

A challenge waiting to be met,

A dissatisfaction with your old path or any easy path

An ache to once again go beyond

Having climbed a mountain there is now a choice

To turn your back on what you have become, or

To embrace the fear of knowing that you can go beyond

And in doing so, bring the mountain into your being.

View from mountain top We all have our mountains to climb – and when we do the view is amazing

We are all capable of ‘climbing the mountain’ – of moving outside our comfort zones.  It is here that growth occurs; the benefits of which can last a lifetime if we choose. 

What mountain is waiting for you and what can you do to ready yourself to climb it?  What will you leave behind and what will you take away?   I hope you have the opportunity to find out soon.   

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

Lessons I learned climbing mountains

Welcome to Life Support our guest blogger Peter McFadyen, who in this post shares some of the lessons he learned climbing mountains.  What mountain are you climbing?  

Let your life be your message.

Michelle

One of the joys of my life is mountain climbing.  I came into the sport late and, in truth, just to spend some time with my wife and get a chance to visit Africa and maybe see a cheetah or two!  At that stage I was more interested in the safari than the summit!  We climbed two mountains that trip.  Mt Meru came first as an acclimatisation climb.  At 4,562m it was a truly challenging introduction to mountain climbing!  From the top we could see our ultimate challenge – Mt Kilimanjaro!  At 5,895m it’s the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  Our attitude towards this sort of adventure is that if you are going to do something then it may as well be a challenge.  It was an amazing adventure in an amazing part of the world spent with an amazing group of people, some of whom we are still close friends with.

I came away from that most amazing of experiences swearing that I would never step foot on another mountain again in my life!

Over the next three months, I noticed that the problems in my life all seemed much more manageable.  I had grown a lot more confident in my ability to handle just about anything that came my way.  I had also become a lot more comfortable in being uncomfortable and this allowed me to be more open to opportunity and challenge.  These three changes to my nature provided a powerful springboard to my journey of personal development and making the most of my life.  About that time a great mate of ours said he was training a new group of climbers to take on Kilimanjaro to do some fundraising and asked me if I’d help them train.  Once I started training again I realised how much I loved the training and being around people who shared my passion and I began to wonder if I had perhaps been a bit hasty in my decision never to climb again.

 

Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa
At the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa – the highest freestanding mountain in the world

This great mate of ours tells people that “Whenever you climb you leave something of yourself on the mountain and you take something away” – and I believe he’s right.  I now climb with him and we’ve since moved on to more technical climbing.  This requires a greater level of training and a lot more focus and in return it rewards you with even greater insight into who you are and allows you to be comfortable with that person.  Of course, this is the benefit in taking on any challenge that pushes us and there are “mountains” around us all the time in our everyday lives just waiting to be climbed.

On a recent climbing expedition I ended up with a failed attempt for the summit of Mt Aspiring in New Zealand.  Despite it being a “failed attempt I did get in a few other summits, I had a great time and learnt a lot of new skills that would come in handy in later climbs.  While I was writing down my experiences each night I ended up building a random list under the heading of “Things learned while climbing.”

On my return home I found that lot of those lessons could be applied to help me in my everyday life and I’d like to share them with you.

·     Preparation and application are key to success.  Wishes don’t climb mountains!

·     Never panic.  Stay centred and move with determination and with a clear path in mind.

·     Each step must be taken in order to reach the summit.

·     Do few things quickly but when speed is needed, do these things well.

·     If at first you don’t succeed be open to a better path – it’s there to be found.

·     Don’t dwell in difficult areas.  Move through them to a place of rest and a clear view.

·     More can be learned through hard earned failure than through easy achievement.

·     We are capable of great things if we go into them willingly, with a smile and a clear purpose.  The greatest limit is in not attempting the challenge.

·     The emotion you feel on achieving your goal may not be the one you expected but it is the right one for you if you allow it to be.  Take thetime to enjoy it and learn from it.

·     Many things must combine for you to summit. No-one summits or fails to summit by themselves – to claim that is to carry an unbearable load.

·     Look forward to see your goal, look back to see what you have already achieved, focus on each step to ensure the next step is on the best path.

·     Your chances of success rely just as much on your partners as they do on yourself – what are you doing to help them to be ready to summit?

·     Take on challenges not to achieve but to believe in the best of yourself and make it true.

 

Climbing in snow
Reminders every day of what I learned climbing and how it helps my life

I have these lessons printed up on my wall and refer to them whenever I feel I’m losing my way or when I feel a goal I have is unattainable.   Mountains are all around us in our everyday lives and every time we set out to “summit” we grow in our abilities and our self-knowledge.

What mountain are you climbing right now?  What gifts can they give you?  What are you learning?

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi