Rustle in the far bed. Startle awake. Have I overslept? Squint at watch through bleary eyes. Good! Twenty minutes to wake-up time. Why does my body feel so heavy? Relax, relax. It's no crime if I don't climb the mountain today. Another five minutes. Turn on side and block out the world. One more minute 'til the shrill insistence of the alarm clock. Everybody's up, might as well too. First, fragrant tea to pull my world into focus, then coffee; force cereal and grapefruit down a resentful throat and flush it with scalding coffee. The after-breakfast conference with Fern and Moran: where shall we go? Scramble up Sharp Edge? How are you feeling? Everything's okay, nothing's okay, legs so lifeless. Two sandwiches, a roll and a bun, lovingly prepared, with the foreknowledge of how tasty they'll be on the slopes; take carrots, apple and a pear, also nuts and raisins. Everything in one portion packets. Pack haversack: first aid, sun block, rain gear, food and thermos. Fill up corners, pack evenly. How routine it has all become when only a few days ago these preparations seemed so cumbersome and strange.
Bundle into the battered car and off we go. Left at intersection, then right after two miles, cross the little humped stone bridge and there's the mountain. We gaze at its grassy mass; it doesn't look too bad. Yes, I'll make it. Park the car. Vaseline heels and toes to prevent chaffing, powder feet, first brown socks then red. Slip feet into boots. Yucky. I greased them last night and they feel all sticky. Haven't left the car and they are already covered with dust. Tie laces, test feet. Shit! Iron eye again pressing into ankle. Why does the left shoe always go askew? Undo laces, yank tongue left while tightening laces with right hand. Ah. That's better.
Sun protector on face, glasses and hat, swing haversack over shoulder, feels light. Off we go. Shoes crunch, crunch along the gravel, as we identify wild flowers: "That's buttercup". "No, that not vetch". "Mind the nettles on the left side of the road." Sheep everywhere chomping grass, ma's baah, lamb's beeah. Behind the light chatter the awful awareness of how heavy feet feel. There's the sign; we are there. Take a deep breath as we start up the path. God, just a few steps and feet feel so leaden. Don't worry; it always takes time to get into stride. Muscles burn as I start to puff. Mind blurs in panic as pain overtakes the whole body. Clear the head. Keep the pain to the legs. Breathe rhythmically - in for the count of one out for two, in one out two. The rhythm of controlled breathing relaxes me. Helps focus energy on the climb. Legs feel so weak. Head down marking each plodding step. How long until our first stop? At last, flop on grass for a well deserved cup of coffee. Hope the caffeine goes straight to my legs. Another conference. Yes we'll continue. Looks good. Nothing's okay, everything's okay. Path up hill looks vicious, but I'll make it, I want to make it. On we go. Shit! Even after coffee and an apple legs feel so lifeless. In one out two, in one foot, foot, foot. Choose stones carefully, try to make each step as shallow as possible. Slog away. I'll quit at the top of this rise. It's not the end of the world if I don't continue ... in fact its character building to say "leave me out". Pace yourself, clear the head. Not too far now... ah, what a relief, a heavenly flat part. At the top of the hill a tarn cupped in the mountains comes into view. It looks so full you wonder why the water doesn't spill out. Focus energy for the next rise. As we continue to gain height a line of hikers, like a colorful centipede, circles below us on the edge of the tarn, where the icy wind makes ripples on the green and blue water.
Look at Moran walk, so effortless and light. Think legs light. Ah, that's better. But how do light legs support a heavy body? Here's the start of the scramble, Fern's already above. That's it, I'll never make it. Now I'll quit. Find a ledge for right leg and little holes for fingers to grasp, push up until suspended on one leg. Place left shoe on sloping rock, take a deep breath and have faith that foot will hold, transfer weight to wedged leg, while pushing with left hand and pulling with right. Suspended like a crab on the rocks, all claw like fingers and toes. Why do I do this! The other foot, suddenly higher, finds anchorage in a new niche. Wow! That was great! A rush of adrenalin to the legs. And unexpectedly its fun. Scrambling up Sharp Edge, climbing upwards, testing new found skills. It's exhilarating. Moran now waiting patiently but alertly below me. What does he think? That I'll fall down and he'll be left to pick up the pieces? The wind is gusting, be sure to walk on the wind side of the Edge. Ah, here's The Gap. Why, it's only a small jump to cross the abyss to the other side. Disappointingly tame. On we climb up the narrow path. I thrill to see the walls of the mountain falling steeply on either side. It's like walking a tightrope. That was fun. Looking back we're impressed by how formidable it looks, the sides even sheerer than I thought. Feeling good, I'd like to do it again. Look, there's the human centipede, now laboriously scrambling up Sharp Edge.
isn't far now. We gladly stride towards the cairn at the
summit, placed as if to challenge all those who dare it to the top.
your stride; breathe deeply, in two out two, head up, shoulders back,
those legs. How wonderful the world below. Touch the cairn. I did it!
Go to Doreen and Eitan's Home Page