Like climbing a mountain

I was puffing up the Hill of Fire (Tinto in Lanarkshire) the other day when it struck me that writing a book is a lot like climbing a mountain. The day was quite a changeable one so it wasn’t such a stroll in the park.

There is the view from the base of the impressive task in front of me, scary to consider the climb, but awesome in its potential majesty. Image looking down from the top, the world will look quite a different place. That sense of achievement, the view. How many others have managed this. I am not the first, only the first today, under these conditions.

I have planned things and am equipped for the journey. Foot-ware, clothes, refreshments, water. I have done my homework and am ready for the task.

How do I start? Well, one foot in front of the other. Setting small goals to break down the overall task into manageable pieces. Picking out a route that suits my abilities and time.

Each step achieved is rewarding. Breaks are required and its fun to look back down the slope to see how far I’ve come. I can make good progress in the early stages and it looks like I am progressing fine. From the start, the top of the mountain is  lost from sight and becomes only a memory, a distant goal to focus on. I know its there, even if I don’t see it clearly.

But then the elements hit me. Its not all just a series of steps after all. There’s the weather, unexpected gusts of wind and rain, or more extreme circumstances that imped our journey. It takes a stronger and stronger will to keep going.

Ahead appears another ridge, the climb gets stepper and I persevere. On the top of the ridge I pause and look back. There’s my starting point, a long way away. I think I know how many ridges and how much time I need to take to finish the task, but I am not really sure any more, the lay of the land looks different up close. The cloud comes in and the going gets very tough. Its hard to make progress when I can only see a little way.

Another steep ridge and surely this must be the last. But no. Beyond is yet an even steeper climb.

Then the rain starts hard. Pelting down, driven by wicked gusts that snatch at my clothes. Many would turn back. its all just too much but I keep going. Stubborn, mule-like, refusing to give up. I know it’ll be fine in the end. But boy it would be easier without the wind and the rain.

A bright patch lights up the scene and I am heartened. My strength and sense of purpose renewed.

But a roaring sound grows and as I top the next ridge there’s a river washing away the path. Life’s curve-balls, Murphy’s Law, those gremlins and trolls sent by Loki and other such deities to cause me mischief. Somehow I find a way through, round, over.

I am now drenched. Wringing, tired and still I cannot see the top clearly. Only the feet moving one in front of the other keep me going. If I stop now, if I sit down, I might never get back up.

With a surge of willpower I march on. The rain eases and now its just mist, cold and eerie. A pervading dampness that fills my world with shadows and doubts. Am I still on the right path? What else is up here? A sudden movement off to my right  startles me, but its only a sheep.

Another ridge is topped and the path leads on. Sodden gravel slips under my boots and my muscle ache. I have to keep climbing. Its not about anything else now, but the conquering.

And there it is. The top. The mists lift as I break through the cloud. The wind is fresher, cleaner and more invigorating. Its only a short way now and the cairn is clear to see. My pace picks up and I rush the last steps.

Standing at the peak I spread my arms wide. The wind is unrestricted and wild. The energy I feel electrifying. As if by magic the cloud below me moves away and the sunlight illuminates the panorama around me and what a view. The struggle and ache to make the climb are but a distant feeling. I have made it.

Tinto done, now I must get on writing my stories.

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