June 28, 2013 Aiguille du Midi

Desire Conquers Fear

Olivier texted this morning – “It is clear up at 3800 meters so I will meet you at 8am and we will go to the Aiguille du Midi and climb the ridge out of the ice cave.”  Shit.  A dilemma.  I was secretly hoping for bad weather and then we would just rock climb in the valley.  I could then blame the weather on not doing the ridge.  Even though I dreamed about doing the ridge out of the ice cave, since I first saw it in 2008.  Now was the time and I had to decide fast.  Fear told me NO.  Desire and a lot of adrenaline told me YES.  I tried to explain all this via text and asked Olivier to call me.  He called and told me it was my decision only.  I said, “Let’s go.”

He roped me tight and kept me close. Each step down and each step up, he guided me.  Sometimes we sang songs to distract and sometimes I used my mantras – ax, pole, step, step, ax, pole, step, step.  We had a rhythm.  He encouraged me and when I would start to panic I would ask him to talk to me.  He would.  At 3800 meters on a narrow path there is no room to become weak and lose focus.  This is when accidents happen.  Throughout the day Olivier continued to ask, “Ca va?”  Often I answered, a few times I did not.  He knew I was panicking.  Then he asked,  “Where was my smile?”   He touched my lips and made them move to be in a smile. We made it down the ridge and back up and guess what I felt?  Kefi.  True bliss, joy, happiness, my spirit was alive.

Why was I hesitating to do the ridge?  What was I afraid of, besides heights and falling and dying?  Often the things we fear the most in life are the same things that we desire.  I created a story in my head about how terrifying the ridge looked when I saw it in 2008.  We are so good at creating stories and telling them to ourselves over and over.  We are the main stars in the story and enjoy the monologue.  Usually it is the case that the reality is completely different from the story that is bringing us down.  We have to recognize when we have a story and be sure to close the chapter fast and say The End!

To do this without dying, on the way to the station in the gondola, I said ‘The End’ to my story.  I told myself that I would look at the ridge again and decide.  We discussed at the bottom that if I got up there and did not want to do it then we would go back down.  Ha, I knew in my heart that would never have happened.  Wouldn’t you know?  The terrifying impression I had in my head was wrong.  The narrow path and steepness were not that bad.  Yikes.

Up and down the ridge, crossing the Mont Blanc glaciers, exhilarating.  It was not easy. Olivier took care about each step and I felt safe.  As we climbed back up the Midi ridge, and once we were on ‘safe’ ground and almost to ice cave, he put his arm around me and kissed my head, well, my helmet.  I knew it was going to be ok. We made it and I gave him the biggest hug.

While I was taking off my crampons and coming down from the sheer thrill of what I just did, three German people appeared.  They wanted to take pictures of me with the ice ax and crampons and I told them I spoke German too.  It was a great exchange and before they left the woman grabbed both of my hands, squeezed them tight, and said to me, “Es gibt Leute die das Leben leben und Leute die nur existieren. Man muss es leben.”  It means – There are people who live life and those who just exist in this life.  One must live it.  (Goethe).  I cried.  I found Olivier and we went down to the valley.

We had lunch. We said goodbye.  I kissed him on a cheek and we hugged. He kissed me on my cheek and we hugged again.  I will miss not seeing Olivier tomorrow. The memories are amazing and I know I can do anything I put my mind to. Focus on living in the present moment and for each step you take in life, trust that it is contributing to a bigger picture.  Don’t get caught worrying too much about the past or living only for the future.  All we have is now and it is a beautiful place to be.

The ridge out of the ice cave at Mont Blanc Free as a Bird My guide and me at top Pointes LachenalMatterhorn behindOlivier with ropes Ready to go down

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