"Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
- Steven Pressfield
[Continued from Part I]
That night, I met Tony at my hostel. From Wisconsin, he had just arrived and was itching to see Fitz Roy straight away. I told him about the weather forecast, and he merely shrugged. He was going no matter what. When he invited me to join him, I realized that it wasn't the fog that was holding me back. To be honest, I was intimidated by all of the stories I was hearing from other hostel guests about the last hour of the hike - ice and rocks, straight uphill, wind and snow, slippery, exhausting, scary.
Was I in good enough shape? Would I hold back whomever I was with? Would I disappoint myself?
So I told Tony that I would hike the first portion with him and turn around at Lago Capri, which is about 2 hours into the 4-5 to the summit. The next morning, the weather was mild as we set out on the trek. When we reached Lago Capri, Tony asked if I was going to continue.
"I don't have any gloves." We had both heard the top of the mountain included crawling and using your hands to maneuver the ice and rocks.
"I have an extra pair," he said.
"But I don't want to slow you down." Another excuse.
"It will be nice to have someone to hike with for once; it's been awhile."
I had run out of excuses. The weather was actually quite nice, he had extra layers with him and he wanted a partner. And then it dawned on me. Here before me, knocking on my door, was that little bugger called Fear.
Anytime Fear arrives, I know that there is some opportunity - though not always obvious - for personal growth, however big or small. But I think what we gain from this visit all depends on how we greet Fear when it comes a knockin'.
The default, and the easier way, of dealing with fear is to meet it with brute force and blindly push through it. To just put your head down, close your eyes and hope for the best; coming out the other side with pride and perhaps an attitude of "I just kicked Fear's ass." But if you simply push Fear out the door it came in, without even looking at it, you will never understand its origin or purpose. Where is it coming from and what is it trying to teach you?
The other way is to greet Fear at the door, invite it in and ask it why it has arrived. It is in understanding why it is there that you will likely uncover that opportunity for growth. Because Fear has likely arrived to teach you something about yourself - your insecurities, beliefs, expectations; what you are projecting or what you are avoiding. Providing you an opportunity to chip away at your fears, revealing a more confident and authentic you.
Now, I'm talking about fears that are more threats to our ego than our life. If I were climbing Mt. Everest, for example, Fear is more than welcome to let himself in, make himself comfortable - hell, he can light up a cigarette and put his feet on the couch if he wants - and tell me about the possibilities of frostbite, avalanche and high altitude pulmonary edema. No, I'm talking about things like a fear of failure, a fear of standing out (or not being noticed), a fear of judgement or criticism. For me, it was the fear of failing the climb, not being in good enough shape or that my age may have started impacting my fitness level. As ridiculous as this might sound to others, it was indeed what was coming up for me.
So once I identified the fear, I asked myself:
What is the worst that could happen?
In this instance, for me it was having to turn around and head back down the mountain, feeling out of shape or not tough enough. That was it. A fear of feeling out of shape and weak was going to stop me from seeing one of the most iconic views in Patagonia!
The next question was:
What is the best that could happen?
So I found myself following Tony to the summit to see Fitz Roy and complete the 20K hike. I don't think there was a moment of silence as we chatted the whole way until we reached the last stretch. That last hour was indeed challenging - the ice and snow, the steep incline on the rocks and the altitude had my legs and my lungs working hard.
It. Was. Exhilarating.
I loved every second of it. The feeling of my legs burning, but keeping them moving regardless. Slowing down and drawing out my breath to keep my heart rate in check. The complete concentration as I had to carefully place every step I took. Feeling exhausted, but filled with adrenaline knowing the top was coming and the views would make it all worth it. Keeping pace with Tony and being able to share the triumph of our journey together at the top.
I had sat with Fear, had a chat and then showed it to the door as I realized that I was stronger than I remembered. It wasn't a new revelation, but one that I believe we get the opportunity to be reminded of again and again. It will certainly come back in one form or another, and I will again invite it in. Because I know that no matter what, it comes bearing unexpected gifts that I will benefit from.
The summit was freezing cold and snowing, as Tony and I waited for the clouds to part so we could get a peak at Fitz Roy. We huddled against a big rock to protect us from the wind and waited. We took some pictures and waited. We put on another layer and waited. Once my fingers and toes were frozen, I decided to start my descent and Tony continued to wait for the clouds to part.
Within 10 minutes of my descent down the very steep and slippery decline, I met John, from Canada - who suggested we descend together given it was a bit treacherous. I was thrilled to find another hiking partner who was clearly more experienced than I was. We had a chat on the way down and once we got through the challenging part, we stopped in a little hut and pulled a snack from our packs. Tony met us there and the three of us descended together as the weather got more beautiful the further down the mountain we got.
That night, we all celebrated with wine and dinner. Joined by Liz and Molly we played cards and other games late into the night. It was by far one of the highlights of my journey thus far!
Food: primarily cooked at hostel
Accomodations: Calafate, America del Sur Hostel; El Chalten, Patagonia Hostel
A view of Fitz Roy...taken by Tony, who was more patient than me
A view of El Chalten
Heading back down
Heading back down
Viewpoint here...the clouds still covering Fitz
I made it! Here, I'm freezing...
Thanks to Tony, my hiking partner
There's Tony, checking out a view