By Joy Anderson
Today I climbed Mt Ben Goram. This hill is a part of the mountain range surrounding Croagh Patrick. Tom took four students with him on this day trek, and I was lucky enough to secure a spot and tag along. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we hopped a fence into a sheep pasture and began our ascent. The climb was easy enough at first—dodge some sheep droppings here, hop over some boggy mud puddles there. As we got higher and higher the wind picked up, and the difficulty increased. Although the farther we went, the more my muscles strained, the view looking out over the ocean and the islands was worth every step. Halfway up, the wind had become so loud that talking was no longer an option, this posed no issue to our group, however, because we were all too out of breath to speak even if we had the choice.
Climbing became a reflective, internal time. I prayed, talking to the people I’ve been missing most and hoping they were with me while I journeyed upward. My coach was especially on my mind. With the beautiful view, the coursing adrenaline, and the spiritual connection this place inspired, I have no doubt that she would have loved every moment of this adventure.
Before anyone realized it, we had passed the line between ground and sky and were surrounded by misty clouds. The wind threw curling tendrils of cloud down the mountainside as it whipped around us. The fog was so thick that it obscured the surrounding mountains and distant ocean. Looking down and being unable to see the ground was dizzying, but it left me with an exhilarating realization. We were nearing the top.
The last part of the climb was the steepest and most strenuous. Feet slipping on the wet stones, boots sinking into boggy muck, I kept moving forward. I ignored the sounds of my own labored breathing and forgot the burning in my legs, nothing mattered but reaching the peak.
Gasping, sweating, and smiling, I triumphantly crossed the summit of Ben Goram. The wind was incredible. Never before have I been literally held up by something I cannot see. It blew the water out of my eyes and the air out of my lungs. The heavy clouds made it impossible to see down the mountainside, interfering with the view from the top of the world. Despite this, nothing could detract from the feeling of reaching the top. I found a rock and rested there until the others arrived, equally amazed and exhausted. Once we began to feel the bite of the chilling wind, we commenced our descent back to earth.
Whereas on the way up, we walked together in single file, as we traveled downward, we went our separate ways. Making little zigzags so as not to tumble face-first down the mountainside, each person picked their way back at their own pace. True to how we live our lives, we all chose our own path. Sometimes these paths would cross, and other times we would find ourselves alone. One moment someone would be ahead, the next they would fall behind. Criss-crossing down the mountainside made it clear how easy following in someone else’s footsteps can be, but how much more rewarding it is to forge your own path.
By the time we reached the bottom of Ben Goram, I had found my center. My body felt alive and strong, and my spirit felt refreshed. The events of today have been indescribable, and once again, I have come to the conclusion that I truly am the luckiest.