This time the „critical” situations are not that critical but as I am terribly scared of heights, you can try to put yourself in my shoes (yeah, I know, a hiker with a fear of heights- that’s going to be fun).
So, the very first really high mountain experience I had was back in my Erasmus when we went alpine skiing with the people from our dormitory. Because, you know we don’t have any mountains in Estonia. Compared to those bad boys we don’t even have hills. It was my second alpine skiing time in general, so you can imagine how bad I was at it. If anyone of you has visited Vitosha (to see an additional information about the mountains, click on links) mountain in Bulgaria, then you know what I am talking about. Well, let’s say the tracks are not meant for beginners like me, especially when the beginner is afraid of heights. Yet, after the first slope I was so excited that I agreed to drive to the very top with the guys. Yeah, that was not good idea. So, the guys got bored of the top and decided to WALK up from unmarked hill to get on another track. Like in a movie it got suddenly really foggy, so not only we walked up with the damn skis in a snow reaching to my bellybutton, but we got completely lost. I was so tired after climbing that I couldn’t have even skied down on an easy slope. To make things worse, the side of the mountain we ended up with was full of rocks and as a beginner I didn’t even have a helmet. Just great! I tried to slowly ski down but as I felt the speed just getting up too fast, my legs being too tired to control the speed, and there were too many rocks to go around, I sat down, took my skis off, and slid down on my ass like a kid. After trying to stay alive for an h we got down on a normal track and that was the last one for on that day.
Another similar situation was when hitchhiking in Italy with Latvians. After never really been hiked in big mountains I faced the size of Dolomites and climbing up with a big bag first time in my life. The track started with quite large road and seemed like this is going to be doable even for me. After 10 min of walking I already took off my jacket as I felt like I am running a marathon. I must admit now that the beginnings are always the hardest for me. The first half an hour or sometimes even an hour just comes only with the blood taste in my mouth and lack of air even on not too high altitudes. The moment this climbing got a bit out of hands for me was when the nice large road ended and we faced just a huge amount of rubble. It is possible to climb it, but with a big bag and not proper shoes it is very, very slippery. What is more, the road just got narrower and narrower. At one point I was even wondering how is it legal to open a track like that for people like me. Facing my fear of heights and falling down from the 30cm path, I made it to the highest point of the track. The only thing I was thinking about back then was „well, now it is going to get easier”. I have never been that wrong. The whole way down was only on the rubble. You literally had to keep the balance with all of the muscles you had, every step feeling like this is going to be the last one. And guess what, it would have been just one long slide down, cause there was literally nothing to grab or hold on to. Through the sweat we still made it!! What is more, with no scratches!
(Sorry for the quality, I didn’t have my camera back then.)
The next one is not about really being in a danger or feeling scared of heights, but facing your weaknesses. In spring 2016 we went to Croatia with a car. Spent there amazing week, although I didn’t get exactly that „sunny trip” as I thought I will. Before I even start describing the situation, I must say that in our relationship Tom is the one who sets up all the trips and plans everything. So all the amazing places we have visited together is only thanks to him. As always, when possbile, we try to fit in the schedule at least one hike. This time we chose Paklenica. It was supposed to be an easy track up next to a little river and as easily back down- all together 4h. So, perfect for making nice pictures. After an h walking up the track started to disappear. We were supposed to follow red dots, but often you just didn’t see any so you kept going until you found one. After already climbing 4 hours I was getting tired. Probably this was my weakness point back then. The feeling when you just have to keep going even if you are not enjoying and you are tired and want to quit, is frustrating. As the guy at the gate already lied about the length, we had no idea how long is it really going to take, because the track just got worse and worse. After 5 hours of trying to keep my feet dry I gave up and started walking right in the cold river. The craziest part was when the water got so deep that you couldn’t even walk it anymore. Well, now what? Swimming in April? Somehow by climbing some ropes we got to the top 4h later than expected and spent the night there as it was already getting dark. It seemed like a nice place to put a tent up until the morning when the screaming wild pigs woke us up.
(Left one be like- playing hide and seek with the track’s marking.)
People say that by facing your fears you are going to get rid of them. Well, I am not sure how long or how many times you are supposed to stare them, because for me it ain’t working. The last short story is from my latest trip to the Alps. As I mentioned before, Tom is the experienced hiker and trip planner, so I completely trust him in this and follow where ever he goes. When we took the trip to the Alps we had been together a year or so, but in a long distance, so there was still a lot of things we didn’t know about each other. Like me being scared of heights. We climbed the whole way from Lichtenstein to Austria. On the way there I broke one of my lenses. Great! You are in the mountains, you are scared of heights, and now you are blind as well. Fortunately I had my glasses with, but as I have never been a fan of glasses, they didn’t really fit me and I felt very uncomfortable. As they were moving with my head I just felt dizzy all the time. On the way to Austria Tom had planned 2 bigger mountains/tops to overcome and enjoy the view. The first one was again with some really bad path almost like in Dolomites. So now I was on the side of a mountain, being scared of heights, feeling dizzy from the glasses and slippery because of the rubble. After trying to overcome the fear and climb about 5 min I just stopped. My legs where shaking so hard that I thought I am going to fall down just because of that. My eyes filled with tears, so instead of seeing little, I saw nothing. I guess this was the time to tell my boyfriend, that I am actually really scared of heights. This time we didn’t go to that top and decided to go around and skip that one. I must say I was relieved. The top we had to take instead wasn’t any better, though. Yes, it wasn’t rubble like the previous one, but the rocks where so big that you really had to climb it. Before taking the top we met one grandmother with my-aged grandson, so we asked how the track is. The guy said it’s really easy, but grandmother corrected him right away: “well, not very easy, but it’s okay”. So when a grandmother can do it, then I can do it… right?! The closer we got to the top, the worse it got. Maybe they were mountain goats or something but this wasn’t easy for sure. With a big bag and a fear it seemed like the craziest thing I have ever done. So i was just facing the rock the whole time as I was too scared to look anywhere else. Again not too wide surfaces to step on so my legs started to shake again. Tom took my bag so now it was just my ass that I needed to get over the damn top. Of course, I did it. Very slowly, but I did it. When usually people feel unbeatable after overcoming their fears, I just felt I need to go down right that moment. I took out my camera, took few pictures of the Lünersee and started climbing down, because everything I could think about was to sit down on a plain surface. I don’t regret anything and I am so proud of myself. I did take one of my favourite pictures of the mountains, but back then I was really the most scared I have ever been.
So everyone, get up and face your fears, because it is going to take more than just once!