“The world is a beautiful place to live.”
Last week, I and my partner hiked in a challenging mountain called the Devil’s Summit, the highest peak of the “Babia Góra” massif in South Poland – 1725 m.a.s.l. It is one of 28 summits in the Crown of the Polish Mountains.
That day, we could only see stones under our feet within 2 meters. It was white all around us as if someone had wrapped us in candy floss. We were moving in a cloud that was cold and dense. The wind rushed at 72 km/h. That’s the equivalent of 8 on the Beaufort scale. We could not see the next trail marker. It became risky and difficult to descend from the summit. The ridge of the massif is vast, and it is easy to get lost when visibility is lacking. And only the wind and clouds were visible.
In such conditions, every rock you stand on counts. Gosh, how good that it is here. – I thought. I was glad for every other boulder I could set foot on and take another step.
The plans to get somewhere, made in the morning and carefully worked out the night before, become a dream. You have to concentrate all your energy on the movement, the precise stepping, the steady support of a stick or your hands.
“Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, the trail leads not merely north and south but upward to the body, mind and soul of man.”
— Harold Allen
Weather conditions were so unfavourable that we retreated and descended from the summit by the same route we had ascended. The mountains teach us to be prudent, to take care of life, to focus uncompromisingly on the ‘here and now’, and to step back. I don’t call it letting go. Stepping back is also a decision, the best one at the time. It is as admirable as the decision to move forward if the weather is favourable.
On the second day, the weather was milder, the wind weaker, at around 40km/h, and the temperature had risen a couple of degrees. We returned to the summit approaching from the “Markowe Szczawiny Hostel” via the Brona Pass—a steep climb but well worth the effort. We continued west towards the “Little Mountain” summit when we reached the top. The sun began to emerge from behind the clouds, and our eyes revealed peaks, ridges and valleys covered in carpets of green dwarf pine and red blueberry leaves—the sky painterly blue. The villages and towns below winked at us with lights reflecting in the windows. It was beautiful.
Taking a step back is a wise decision. Like keeping silent so as not to add oil to the fire. Like holding your tongue when words can do more harm than good.
Obstacles encourage you to look for new solutions and ways to reach your goal. They teach you to focus on the trail and notice it. They allow one to choose paths according to one’s inner compass and emerging opportunities rather than blindly pursuing a preconceived goal.
Hiking mountain trails teaches you to be in harmony with mind and body. It brings fulfilment. It shows what we are capable of, being defenceless against the elements of nature but able to cope if we listen to reason and instinct without losing the joy of walking our ways.