I sit there looking up, it’s immense dark brooding, I shiver, the only path I see heading straight up, from here it looks vertical, impossible. I get up and tentatively walk to it’s base. I look up, it looks even steeper from here. I start up, still looking up I lose site of the top. I stop in despair. I turn back it is too much. as I reach the bottom again. a man comes jogging up, thinly clothed in vest and shorts sweat band round his forehead and water bottle in hand. He nods to me then looks up at the mountain takes a deep breath and with a burst of speed attacks the path up the mountain scrabbling using hands as well as feet clawing his way up that steep slop. I watch him go, not sure whether to cheer him on or wish him to fail. He keeps on going, becoming smaller in my view eventually disappearing.
I walk back away from the mountain to get a better view, despondently I cast my gaze over it’s dark foreboding outline sharp and scraggy. The path a feint line heading to the top. I imagine I can see the runner a faint speck on the path, but I’m not sure. How does he do that? I wonder, knowing I cannot, knowing that mountain peak is out of my reach. I look around to see where else I can go, but there is nowhere, all else is flat, empty, barren. I feel empty, hollow like the land around, desolate. With nowhere else to go I head back to the mountain and again sit gazing at the path.
How long I sit I do not know, time passes but means nothing.
I hear footsteps behind me crunching along the path, a steady strong stride holding a rhythm that could go on forever. I turn and see a woman purposely walking forward toward the mountain. Dressed in walking clothes with a rucksack slung over her shoulder. As she approaches she looks at me smiles a warm smile “Hi”.
“Hi” I reply. She pauses and looks up at the mountain.
“You going up there? ” I ask,
” Yes, what about you?”
I feel the heat rush into my face “no” I look away embarrassed.
“Don’t you want to?”
I glance up, she smiles down a quizzical look on her face. I look down, away, hoping she will leave me to my torcher but she just stand silently waiting for my answer. I look up into warm patient eyes.
“I can’t, I don’t know how, it’s too steep” My voice choaks as admitting my weakness brings the tears to my eyes and clogs my throat. She looks from me to the path up the mountain.
“Oh I’m not going that way” she looks back to me “that’s much to hard, I’m going a different way.”
“ There’s another way?”
“Yes I can show you if you like”.
“How do I know if I can make it that way?”
“Come and have a look, It’s a lot longer but nowhere near as steep.”
I get up hopefully “do you mind?”
“Not at all, it’s much more fun with company” she leads the way to the base of the mountain path. “see this path” she says pointing to the left “we go this way” I look at path snaking along the base of the mountain, so fixated on the path up the mountain I’d not seen it.
“look, see how it winds it way up cutting it’s way across the path time and again and if you look closely you can see people moving up there.”
I squint as I look up not sure what I can see. ” it still looks a long way to go” I say doubtfully.
“Lets just see how we go” she smiles “come on”.
I follow her along path, it starts gently with hardly a gradient and it feels good to be moving. I step out stretching my legs, my hopes are up, yes I can do this, the blood pumping it my veins, the excitement pushes me forward. I start racing ahead.
“Slow down pace yourself” I hear her call from behind, I ignore her and race on. Without me noticing the path starts to get steeper, it is only when my breath begins to labor and my legs being to ache that I realise. I push on not wanting to give in. I look up the mountain, I can’t see the top, I know it is still a long long way. Head down I continue. my steps become short, breath more ragged, sweat on my brow. I start to feel desperate, each step heavier, I hear steps behind me a steady rhythm, I look round she’s coming up behind me.
“I can’t do it, I pant. its too much”
“You just started off to quickly, It’s not a race. Stop for a minute and catch your breath, sit here” she pats the raised bank to the side of the path.
“It’s no good I’ll never make it to the top” I moan as I gratefully lean back against the bank.
“You’d be surprised how far you can get, just take a look at where we are.”
I look out and down across the plain below, only it’s not flat as I thought it undulates gently, the shadow of clouds drifting and dancing shades of light and dark across it. “look that’s where we started” she points down the hill to a point far below “Isn’t better up here?”
“Yes, much better, I hadn’t realized we’d come so far”
“That’s because you wearn t looking. How you feeling ready to continue?”
“OK, I’m ready, not sure how far I can get.”
“Don’t worry, take it steady, stop if you have to, its a matter of finding a pace and rhythm you can sustain.”
I started off taking is slowly, my legs stiff at first but they loosened as we walked side by side acationally chatting, stopping every now and gain to look at the view, which gradually changed as we zigzagged up the hill. One time as we crossed the steep path we stopped to let a runner scramble past panting and sweating, eyes fixed to the ground in front of him. “Do you think he will make it?”
“Whats the point if he does, he’ll be knackered when gets there, he won’t have seen anything and he’ll only have to come back down again.”
“So why are we going up there?”
“Who says I am?”
“Oh, so why you here?”
“I’m here because I like the views and I like to see who I’ll meet on the path, come on lets see whats round the corner ahead.”