Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Personal Hero and life drugs.

Yesterday midday I drove back to Germany.
Germany, the country that will be my new home for the next couple years.

The Autum clouds on road behind me on the St.Bernhard pass in Italy/Swiss
When driving back it felt like I left a little bit of my heart behind. Like a long colourful rainbow glittered and flew out from my chest behind me slowly evaporated when I drove further away from those beautiful mountains.

The mountains around Chamonix last week
 The last two weeks I'd spent with Steve, Buster, Colin, Steven and a couple of other Mentors in Courmayeur and Chamonix.
Our third trip within a year since Steve started the Alpine Mentor Programme.

I was sceptic. Again a small trip. Just two weeks and a lot of expensive cable-car tickets.
How much can you do and where do I ever get the money from again?
I had huge plans and I knew basically none of the routes that are on my list could actually be done in this week.
The reasons? Many. I can blame people, conditions, money, materials, but most of all I blame me.
Many reasons that frustrate me and drive me.

One of the routes that I really want to climb (soon)
The Jorasses producing clouds in the wind, not the best conditions to climb there these weeks...
That what drives me is something personal. Something just for me and it's probably totally different for you.
Reading the Alchemist again reminded me on how to interpreter the idea of goals.
It's called Personal Hero. Personal Hero can be anything, from a treasure at the Pyramids in Egypt to a Political position in the Dutch Parliament.
It's basically just something to strive and work for.

When discussing what we'd reached during the past week(s) in Alpine Mentors, Steve read the introduction of the Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho) to us.
Being reminded of my own personal goals made me pretty emotional.

As a reminder the the whole introduction here:

“Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.
There are four obstacles.
First: we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.
If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.
Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh, well, I didn’t really want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey.
Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.
I ask myself: are defeats necessary?
Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.
So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
Because, once we have overcome the defeats—and we always do—we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: “Each man kills the thing he loves.”
And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal—when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”

Now I don't believe in God. 
I don't believe in religion. 
But I do believe in the power of your own mind.

The Maria statue hit by lighting on the Dent du Geant

In life it's easy to lie, to walk away, to act, to hide, to change, to copy, to fake, to avoid in any way the real thing. 
We wear clothing that hides the actual curves of our body. We wear make-up to mask our natural beauty. We act like we like the person but the only thing we need from them is their money and their goods. We avoid being in hard situations, walk away from arguments or try to solve them with force. We copy others to blend in. 

Alltogether we keep on pretending. Lies. Every day again. 

The beauty of climbing is the honesty. Especially Alpinism, the discipline that many (famous) Alpinists call "the King discipline". 

When climbing you can't lie. You can't be a different person, theres not an excuse. It's just you. YOU have to climb it, figure the right way up. The harder the route. The harder the way.

And it's not just one way. It's just your way. 

A mountain provides many ways to the top. A route can be climbed in many different ways, with many different movements. Depending our your own strengths and weaknesses you find your own personal way to the top. Or any specific point that you want to reach. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, when traveling over the Alps: "Der Weg ist das Ziel". 

The travelling, the way to the top, your personal journey makes you the person you are. And believing in your goals makes your journey worth your life. 

The quote especially counts in climbing. Sometimes the top of the mountain is not the thing that actually makes the journey. It might be that the route just doesn't get all the way to the top. Like with sportsclimbing, when it's often just one single pitch and often on a mountain that doesn't have a defined top. Or when on the Everest taking the Japanese Couloir instead of the over trafficked normal-route. Or doing the crossing of the Himalaya and not even getting on the top of the 8000m peaks but just seeing them is enough. 

Or when you're just "not good enough" to reach the top (yet). You probably learn even more by not reaching the top then when it all goes super smoothly and easy. 
Like when we tried the Cretier route on Mont Maudit and had to turn around or when we slept in a crevasse close to Mont Mallet after we were too slow in the bad weather on the crossing of the Jorasses.
And then it feels yet even better when you finally do reach the top or the end of the route!

Rappelling the Bergschrund from the Mont Maudit after bailing off the Cretier route
In the past years after secondary school I studied all kinds of things. Forest and Nature Conservation, Pedagogy, Geology, International Studies in Education and I've always had an interest in Developmental Psychology, Neurology and Politics so I followed quite some lectures and read quite some things about these subjects too. 

My parents always had the opinion that I'm a child of the World. That they put me on this World to become an independent person and that it's their task to get me there. 
They chose a beautiful piece of text on my birth-card from the Libanese artist, writer and poet Kahlil Gibran.

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable."

Marianna, Kahlil's sister, painting by Kahlil Gibran

As a child, when walking back from the Martin Buschhütte in Ötztal I remember I told my dad; "Pap..., als jullie hier gewoond hadden, dan hadden jullie vast alletwee berggids geweest inplaats van gymnastiek leraaar, toch?" (Dad..., If you'd lived here instead, you probably both would have been mountainguides instead of PE teachers, right?)

Everyone probably has a certain respect for people that sound special in their view. 

Young boys have that with Fire Fighters, young girls with pop-stars. I had my own dream profession: Mountain Guide. 

With 'emongus' respect I looked up to the men that walked and climbed in the area that I never wanted to leave on the end of the Summer Holidays. 

This climbing on holidays always stayed and grew with the years. I even went up very respected mountains with mountainguides lightly directing me through the though terrain. 

When I needed to choose what I liked to study I had many options. The most daring one was the one to study something with nature in Innsbruck so that I could be in the mountains to get closer on climbing. 

The other one was psychology, but, as I hardly understand myself, how could I ever study psychology (?!). I chose for the safest and least daring option: Forest and Nature Conservation at the University of Wageningen. 

The highest mountain there is called the 'Wageningse Berg' and is just a pile of old glacier rocks and sand. 

At that time I had no idea there were actually loads of climbing gyms in the Netherlands and that there were actually Dutch communities that train in those gyms to later on get into the mountains. 

I didn't knew until some friends took me to such a gym. 

Within a couple years I turned 'blind' and only focused on sportsclimbing. Because Alpine climbing is foolish and dangerous. 

I attended national and international climbing competitions and even found myself a boyfriend that loved bouldering. I moved to Iceland to figure that there's more then just bouldering on that Island. 

I remember my first two times climbing ice. Hot eggs (screaming barfeys) and I forgot my harness. We were far away in the inlands in Iceland. 
With my sling-harness I lead my first WI5 and I didn't have a V-threader. I had to wrap the rope around some dubious pieces of ice for an rappel. My climbing partner didn't dare to climb the route. 
Everything was wet, my sleepingbag was cold and it was dark. 
I was sold. I loved it. 

A year later I found myself on the Iceclimbing Worldcup in Daone Italy after half a year of chatting about iceclimbing with my new Facebook friend Dennis. 
He invited me to travel to the Worldcups in his campervan and I never left the van (and Dennis). 
Not much later we were in a relationship sharing more then just iceclimbing. 

And now I'm suddenly climbing with some of the best Alpine climbers in the world and climbing on places where I could only dream of. 

On the Rochfort Ridge last week.
That all made me think. 
Where do I want to be in ten years? Who do I want to be in then years? 

What if it would still be possible...?

No, your too old to start that. 
No, imagine what age you'd be when you possibly get the ticket?
No, you're not living at the right place. 
No, you don't have the money for it.
No, there are more things that you want to do and this interferes. 
No, because then you can't do your 2 year driving from the Netherlands to China climbing adventure with Dennis. 
No, because then you can't get children. 
No, you're climbing level will decrease so much
No, you won't be able to climb the things that you really want anymore. 
No, you won't make enough money.
No, you can't ski. 
No, it would be too risky spending money and time on it. 
No, it really would be a waste of time.
No, in a year time you change your mind and want to do something else again. 
No, you're far from good enough.
No, you don't really want this. 


One person always told me I should try. 
And now I just met his girlfriend Tania. And she told me I should just try. At least try. What was there to lose? 

Oh, well. After four years of doubting and dubbing I made my very very scary, aaah, I'm even scared on writing it, decision: I want to become a mountainguide. 

With a dry throat, I swallow my emotions, I just wrote it down. It's definite now. I'm going to train and practise to become a mountainguide. 

By the time I'm writing this Tania just got her ticket. She's a guide now. 

Now think back on what Kahlil and Paolo wrote. Independence, accepting your goals, don't fail because you're afraid to reach your goal...
All these no's can actually become yes. 

My time, my life, climbing famous mountains with guides (like the Eiger) when I was still a naive young girl, you all brought me to this. 
This is my Weg, and this is my Ziel, and that goal gets me to yet a new road a road in life that keeps me onto the things I love. 
And that, no matter how hard the work, gives me happiness.

Happiness, the ultimate life drug.


Anonymous said...

Yeah! Good for you! Chase your dream! Live your dream!


Henk van der Stelt said...

Idd ga je droom achterna

Doede Wessels said...

Mooie keuze!

Anonymous said...

Go girl! Respect!

Anonymous said...

Go girl! Respect!

Jouko Kinnunen said...

Maybe you have already made the decision, and now you just make a reason for that.

As always the first step is hard.

The man from the Aiguille du midi icecave/norröna ship returning from Iceland
... yep I had to dig you out from the internet :)

Mihai said...

Nice (the poem is really nice). Saw a pretty impressive video of you climbing the Eiger North Face: you could write a blog post on that :). How's going with the whole mountain-guide-thing? Best of luck, and keep climbing :D