Conquering mountains and battling fear

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I climbed a mountain last weekend. Cowles Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego, and it’s been on my radar since I moved here in 2009. I missed an opportunity to climb it a couple of years ago with some San Diego Sparkpeeps, but I kept it on my “adventure list” (with WOLFKITTY). See her blog about this hike here:

Here’s the thing: I have an irrational fear of falling, and I’ve let that hold me back from some pretty cool things. I’m not afraid of heights, just falling. And hiking is full of potential for falling!

I went on a hike earlier this year with a group from SP, and it was a disaster (for me). I was at a low point in general anyway, and navigating unfamiliar and uneven terrain messed with my head. Even as I watched several people ahead of me jump or step wide from one rock to the next, and I could see exactly what I needed to do, I was frozen in fear. I don’t know how long I would stand there, but it felt like forever each time. I had to talk myself into taking the next step or jump, and it was a battle. My fear is that the rock would not support my weight. My brain would flash pictures of me falling into the water as the rock gave way or blood spewing forth as I missed the rock and landed face first on the ground. I know it’s irrational, but I could not help it. Apparently, people tried talking to me during these moments and I was so far in my own head that I didn’t even hear them! I’d finally make it to the next obstacle and start the frozen-in-fear thing all over again.

Despite this self-created disaster, I wanted to keep hiking. San Diego is beautiful, and there’s so much to explore. I don’t want this fear to hold me back from anything. And it wasn’t going to steal Cowles Mountain from me!

Early Sunday morning, my husband, Jocelyn and I met HAWAIIANMAMA at the base of Cowles Mountain. It’s pretty popular, so there were a ton of people there already. We started our ascent and I had to tell myself not to think about the descent that would come later. I had to get up there and enjoy the view before the meltdown began!

It was a really good hike. Challenging, but not impossible. What struck me was how different an experience it is for everyone. For me, it was a serious challenge that required focus and coordination and stops to catch my breath. For others, it was their playground. There were people running and jumping off rocks on their way down as if it were the easiest thing in the world. I’ll have to work up to that!

The view from the top was so worth it. The marine layer hadn’t yet burned off, which kept the sun from beating down on us, but also restricted the view a bit. It didn’t matter though, it was still pretty sweet!

After all of my stressing and worrying about the descent, I didn’t do too badly. Jocelyn, Malia and my husband were all very supportive and that helped me keep my fear in check. I’m certainly not as confident with hiking as others, but I thought I was noticeably more comfortable with it this time. I think pushing myself in my Kaia workouts contributed to that. My body has been proving my brain wrong more often lately, and that’s giving my confidence a much-needed boost.

So, I conquered the mountain! And I loved it. And I want to do it again!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post

    1758 days ago
  • ABB698
    emoticon Heather! I'm so proud of you for kicking your fears in the face and reaching that peak and enjoying the beautiful view of our city! I want to be there firsthand, next climb! Wish I wasn't working that day, like I told Joce, I totally want to go with you guys next time! I need to see the new, improved trail with my Sparkies! Keep pushing, you are doing fabulous! Go Girl!!! emoticon
    1765 days ago
    I am so jealous...I wish I had gone mountain climbing recently.
    1765 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    Great job on conquering that mountain and your fear! I am with you on being cautious and not wanting to jump from rock to rock--who does that?? Well, great that you did it and I know that all the hard work you've been putting into your Kaia classes and all the heavy lifting you do has paid off! You're stronger and more capable! You're doing great!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1765 days ago
    That view is amazing!!!!!!!!! Awesome job!

    I am definitely not a fan of hiking and I would have been terrified in the situation you described!!!!!!!!!
    1765 days ago
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