Reflections on Blencathra
Below is a blog post submitted by Elaina Graham, one of our regular customers. It was written after a memorable day on Blencathra, and details Elaina's thoughts and experiences of the day. It also gives an indication of the teamwork that was involved, on that occasion. Hopefully this article will prove to be inspirational to people, and prove that "you really can climb that mountain".
Started the walk on a wet misty day along with Paul the leader and his dog Bess, Dave his friend, Tina and Helen. The first stretch was a long steady ascent, which made us all breathless and told on the leg muscles and the bottom. I thought I was fairly fit but now questioned was I kidding myself. I had upped the aerobic training and some walking and a little weight training but now realised that I needed to be even fitter to do these challenges.
The weather continued wet and misty, cloud very low, clearing and dropping very quickly. We progressed at a good rate and at this level I was happy with my progress. As we climbed we came to the ridge and for the first time I questioned had I taken on more than I could do. Paul had asked the question again about the level of difficulty we wanted. We were very clear we wanted the ultimate challenge but I had not thought it through.
The ridge was very slippery because the rocks were wet, difficult to walk on without slipping, much more dangerous due to conditions and at this stage I asked the question if we could go for the easier route. Too late we had gone past the stage of no return. I struggled with the ridge at this stage and experienced moments of panic and fear. Twice I controlled the tears knowing that the only way to get of the ridge was to go on. Paul used his leadership skills to talk me through keeping his tone calm and controlled and matter of fact that he was going to get me through and I wasn’t going anywhere except onwards and upwards.
At this stage my stress levels were acute, after each crisis and on achieving what I perceived as temporary safety, my head was pounding with a headache. I had felt the blood pumping up my neck to produce the headache. I presume my blood pressure would have been sky high if it had been checked at this stage.
I was very aware at this stage of the danger I had put myself in. It was a long way down and thoughts flashed through my mind that I hadn’t sorted out my financial affairs for my children. Yes I was very scared. And yet the positive stuff kept coming to the fore, I had come through lots of challenges in my life and as I had no choice I was determined that I was going to climb this mountain. Self-preservation clicked in and I was determined I was not going to die.
The next challenge was in front of me. Helen and Tina went on before me and Helen, who I thought was coping, struggled to get footholds and handholds. Paul coached her through and then it was Tina’s turn. I was in a relatively safe position crouched on a rock knowing that this was my turn next. At this stage all my positive thinking training clicked into place. I resorted to the positive affirmation ‘I can do this, I can climb the mountain, I can do this’ Again and again I repeated the mantra until it was my turn. The big flat rock would have been easy on a dry day but today it was like glass, I inched forward looking for little footholds. I had blind faith in Paul when he instructed me to step right and hold on the next big square rock. And then we had to cross a ravine. I accepted his big strong hands but I was very aware that it was as dangerous for him as it was for me; he had to balance and judge every move he made.
The next challenge was in front of me and this was a v shaped climb, very narrow and vertical. At this stage Bess decided she was going to come to greet us but then she got stuck. It was like logs stuck in a pipe. I couldn’t move forward because Bess was in front of me, Paul was behind me and Dave behind him. Bess seemed to understand how scared I was and I’m sure she had come back to urge me on. Paul eventually managed to persuade her to turn around and head back up the climb.
At this stage I asked Paul to be in front rather than behind so he could pull me up if needed. I realised how much he was putting himself at risk and determined to take responsibility for myself as much as I could. With much pushing and pulling I completed the narrow part and continued to climb the last stage before we reached the summit. Bess had urged me on using her body to press into mine as if she was looking after me and giving me confidence to finish the ascent.
As we reached the top the mist lifted and the views were beautiful and majestic. We had lunch and then began the descent. Hard going on the knees and legs but eventually completed the challenge seven hours after the start.
The scenario was a good example of how teams work together for the good of achieving the group goal. Each member of the team relied on each other and the individuals were as important as each other. The team leader took control and had the trust of the team members. He gave clear instructions and helped where needed but was skilled enough to give encouragement and then let the individuals work out how they could complete each task.
Comfort zones are for stretching but plan the stretch
Feel the fear and do it any way
As a group, if one of us had decided that we couldn’t do it, we would all have given in
I felt that I couldn’t let the others down so kept going
I kept my fears to myself for fear of showing my emotions
The rest of the group kept their fears till the end
We all disclosed our thoughts and fears after we had reached safety
I trusted the leader totally
I followed instruction
I can control my emotions
Positive self talk clicked in at the moment I needed it
I believed I could do it so I did
I had no choice but to finish the challenge
I had to take responsibility for my self
I was aware that although the leader was there to help, I still had to take responsibility for myself
I was aware that I had put the leader in danger
I respected the leader
I trusted Bess the dog