By Adventure Travelperson
I was talking with a travel-writer friend last night about the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns. He’s done it and I’ve done it, but what kind of surprised both of us was the fact that so many people who don’t have much or any background in climbing do it. And do so well on it. And are amazed they did so well. (Not to mention really, really loving the experience.) Because, from below, or actually right in the middle of it, the Via Ferrata can look a little--how shall I say--daunting. Yet all kinds of people scamper right up there with no trouble. For a lot of them that involves pushing past limits. Self-imposed limits, usually.
Back when I was leading treks, I’d get to the airport to fly off to Asia and there in the departure lounge would be eight or ten of my clients (I could always tell the trekkers from the civilians because of all the Patagucci gear and the Vibram-soled boots, which most travelers to Bangkok avoid wearing). And I’d get to chatting with them. In the early days, especially, back in the 80s, not many of them had been on Himalayan treks, or any kind of trek for that matter. Some were experienced hikers, but some weren’t. But just about all of them were concerned that they’d maybe bitten off more than they could comfortably chew, that they’d be lagging on the trail while the rest of us galloped on.
There was very little predictive value: I used to say that if you asked 10 people if they were good hikers, two would say yes, and two would say no, and six would say I don’t know. And of the two who said yes, one would be wrong, and of the two who said no, one would be wrong, bringing us, if my calculations are correct, to two out of ten people who knew whether they were going to be good on the trail. But the kicker is that over the years probably 97 per cent of my clients (and my company’s trekking clients in general) did absolutely fine on the trail.
What I learned is something CMH is good at propagating: Like Yogi Berra is said to have said, “It’s 90 per cent mental. The other half is physical.” The Via Ferrata isn’t much more difficult than climbing a ladder (albeit a rather airy ladder) and most people can climb a ladder. And ground is ground, whether it’s in the Himalaya or the Colombia Range or in that backyard hill. And most everybody can walk on the ground. Most everybody can climb and walk far more and better than they think, and--here’s the payoff--when they do walk and climb more and better and farther, they tend to be thrilled that they did it. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it.
What adventures have you been on that have pushed you (happily) beyond your limits?
PS. My wife Mary took a look at the above blog about the Via Ferrata’s effect on the people who climb it and said, “You disexaggerated” (she’s got a way with words). “You know what it’s like to be in the bar scarfing up hors d’oeuvres when a Via Ferrata group floats in. Those people are high!” She’s right. I’m a survivor of the 60s and have experience with being around high people, and I’ve got to admit that I’ve never seen people with such sharp eyes, clear minds, and lifted hearts who are that high. Listening to people talk about the Via Ferrata is almost as uplifting as climbing it.