As a child, I loved mountains. I had never actually seen one, in real life, but I loved them. My dream was to visit Switzerland, the land of mountains. In my very limited knowledge of the world and its geography, Switzerland = the Alps, ergo Switzerland was the place to go to see mountains. In fact, I so loved mountains that my mother and my grandmother each gave me a framed picture of mountains for a birthday or Christmas. I still love mountains. When I say ‘mountains’, the picture in my mind is of high, rocky places, bare of vegetation, with steep, jagged profiles with some covering of snow and/or ice – the amount of snow and ice is unimportant. I love to gaze upon mountains: they have such a powerful presence which I find oddly fascinating and calming. I can be easily mesmerised by them, by photographs of them. Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock, has a similar effect. I don’t have much of a ‘bucket list’ but Uluru is most definitely at the top of it!
FPR has climbed quite a few mountains around the world. He’s thrown himself off one or two, as well. He doesn’t understand that I can be fascinated by mountains but not interested in climbing them. I think my lack of desire to climb them may be because I wouldn’t be able to see the mountain while I was climbing it – well, apart from the bit around where I was standing or climbing. I would be too close. I love the majesty of the mountain. However, that is changing somewhat.
I still love mountains and now, at my greatly advanced age (well, in the eyes of my two loving sons!) I am finally taking up moutaineering. It is a particular type of climbing that I am indulging in but, actually, it isn’t through choice. With any mountain there are several choices of how to move past it: go up it, go round it, go through it or, fly over it. Hmm… Yes… Well… That’s true of mountains like Everest, Aconcagua, the Matterhorn and so on, BUT… when the mountain is a set of high, steep steps those choices don’t apply. The single option, if you want or need to access the paradise which is only accessible by those same steps, is to go up them.
That’s where the mountaineering begins.
I have noticed in the past two or three weeks that my Fibro is changing considerably. My entire body has stiffened so much and become incredibly weak. I have never been physically strong or powerful. In fact, my baby son has teased for years because my wrists and hands are so weak! However, the weakness in my body has become very much more pronounced during these past few weeks. When I mount the stairs, at home, I have to pull myself up using the bannister. It is quite a nuisance as, if I was carrying anything upstairs I would hold it in my left hand, but I now need to hold our only bannister with that hand. I am finding that I can barely manage to carry the laundry basket upstairs because of the way I hold it. I need to find a new position or technique to hold it.
Returning to the mountaineering, last week I had to ascend and descend the same set of three (or four) very deep steps several times. It was quite a challenge. I do not use any mobility aids and there was no rail to hold onto so it really was like being faced with a mountain. When I first saw them, I froze. How on earth was I going to get up them? It’s not just the amount of energy that is needed, but also the way my balance is affecting me, plus the weakness and the stiffness of my body. The steps were not particularly user-friendly. There wasn’t much depth, from front to back, to place one’s foot: the depth was in the risers. I think they would be challenging for many people. Oh, my goodness. I really wished I had had a walking stick with me. In fact, I am thinking that it might be wise to keep a walking stick in the car – just in case. Oh dear, I am feeling decidedly old and decrepit – definitely not like a mountaineer!