The last time I lined up to do alpine training I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. So, as best I recall I was quite sanguine about the whole thing. Now, with some appreciation of how difficult it might be, I am starting to feel the knot of anticipation wind up inside me as I think about the week that I am to start tomorrow. It is not a feeling of worry, or of any really deep concern but a slight knot of anticipation. I relive the heights, the falls, the weird sense of stability on crampons in icy edges even as the ground falls away beneath me. I know that it will be a rewarding week but that the reward only comes through hard work but especially by conquering some fear. Actually, it comes about through conquering lots of fear.
That may be putting too much of a focus on fear. And how does one conquer it anyway? Not by ignoring it, though there are lots of occasions on these peaks when I bite down my terror and push it to one side. Rather, it is done by getting as much knowledge about the conditions, situation and the environment as possible, and by soaking up as many skills as you can. My fear of falling vanished last year in a dramatic fall over the Hooker Valley when I had enough time in mid flight to look down, assess the rope and to say to myself “Your knots are good”. It is not the most pleasant situation but with ropes, equipment and knots well managed you go a long way towards mitigating the fear, not of a fall so much, but of the consequences of a fall. Sure the Hooker Valley floor might be 3000’ below you but you know even as you drop towards it that you will not be hitting it. Bang, the rope pulls you up abruptly and you swing in space working out what to do next, grinning like an idiot, and hoping you didn’t squeal.
The day has been pleasantly spent with Steve and Emilie, and in the company of David and Jessie who are holidaying in Timaru. We caught up with them at church much to my surprise (and theirs too) and so we have regaled each other with family stories and relived a whole bunch of tried and true tales, including the obligatory round of discussions centred on Dr Money. How good it is to eat a meal with friends, and how doubly sweet it is to dine with those whose connections cross ages and generations as if they do not matter. For surely they don’t. It is a tonic for me that keeps my spirit young. David and Jessie were a great encouragement to me over lunch as they enjoined the ongoing engagement with the youth. After all, we first met more than 40 years ago on that very same common ground of youth ministry. Encouragement comes from the most unexpected places and at unexpected times. I’m always grateful for it. We part ways mid afternoon. I do hope I can see them again.
Diary 19 January 2014
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