A few years ago on a whim a friend asked if I would like to go for a scramble. It was a beautiful day and although I am not a particularly carefree person for some reason I thought “What the heck! Let’s give it a go!”
I think one of the reasons I felt happy was that I had completely misunderstood what is meant by “scramble”. In my mind I had an image of a steep hill that would take a bit of effort, but was nothing more than a “good walk”. I look back and laugh now at how wrong I had got it.
Tryfan is a mountain in the Ogwen Valley of Snowdonia, North Wales. It has an elevation of 3,010 ft/917.5m and we were heading to the top. To say that I was not prepared for this both physically (being completely out of shape and with a terrible fitness level) and mentally (I had not done anything like this for over 10 years) was an understatement. Just walking from the car park over a few boulders to the base of the mountain left me gasping for an inhaler and thinking that I would have to sit and wait in the car while my friend (and his two boys) made the trip. Fortunately they were very patient and slowed their usual pace to help me keep up. And up we went,
Climbing a mountain (even a small one) is a hard experience to describe. With the help of the weather, clear blue sky, no wind, hot sun, it was exhilarating as the vast expanse of mountain range and deep valley lakes opened up to us. The world below us became small and silent as we ascended higher and higher and the view became only more and more beautiful. But of course as we rose higher, the fear of falling rose within me as well.
A couple of times we found that our way was blocked and we had to take a route that required a bit more of us physically than even my friend had expected. I remember one moment when we needed to pass over a ledge that was particularly narrow and exposed a large drop beneath us. I would not describe myself as being scared of heights but
I remember being scared at that point,
I remember not being sure that I could go on,
I remember the drop seeming so long and the ledge so narrow,
In that moment I had to allow my brain to start and think. The ledge seemed narrow, but was still a ledge and it was no razor point like my mind was making it seem. Thousands of people much more skilled and much less skilled than me had passed this way before and there was no reason why I couldn’t. The height that we were at plays tricks with your mind and makes everything seem out of proportion.
In the end there was one final thing that I told myself. As I held on to the rock and walked the ledge, I reminded myself that the rock I was holding on to was old, it had been there for thousands of years and would remain for thousands more. It was this final thought that gave me the courage to move on.
I remember that afternoon as a great day. It scared me to realise just how unfit I had become (something I am trying to remedy), but I was proud of myself for reaching the top when I had thought I would give in at the bottom.
Most of all I remember the lesson that it taught me: sometimes you need to hold on to the things that don’t change.
Psalm 136 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.