We stared up at the steep, chain-linked climb that began the six-hour trek to the top, at Kjerag, Norway.
Were we really doing this?
A sick feeling settled in my stomach. I’d read about people getting stuck or lost on the trails at the plateau, which are sparsely marked with stones, and the chains, which aren’t always still attached to the rock faces we’d be climbing up. Or… the ever-present edge of the trail, which was a long way down to the fjord. What if we got lost and couldn’t find our way back before dark?
“We don’t have to do the hike,” said Matt.
I shook my head. For some reason, I had to get to that boulder. The hike was long and beautiful in places. After a while, we got used to hefting ourselves up steep inclines by the chains. We rested in green valleys with sheep grazing in them and swore our way up the last crazy-steep set of rock faces until we reached the plateau, which was cold, silent, stunning.
I lined up to stand on the boulder. I got out of line. I lined up three times before I forced myself to step out on the narrow rock ledge, 3,228 feet above Lysefjorden anyway. The chain that used to help hikers leverage themselves out on the rock was broken, so I had to feel my way along the smooth ledge. Standing on the boulder with the wind whipping around me was intensely powerful, but not as much as what happened next.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
As I turned to leave, I wobbled. My legs were unaccustomed to so much physical exertion. I looked down. And then I panicked.
I was stuck on the boulder.
I had envisioned myself doing yoga poses like all of the people on Pinterest and Instagram, waving flippantly at the camera as if standing so high and vulnerable was no big deal. Instead, I felt the hot shame of tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Hey! It’s okay–grab my hand!” shouted a voice.
I looked and saw that the other hikers had formed a sort-of make-shift chain with their arms. With the help of a group of strangers that I will probably never see again, I was back on solid ground. We hugged.
It’s not About the Climb
At first, I felt embarrassed, but on the way down I saw hikers helping each other all along the way. Somehow, in my frenzy to make it to the top, I had missed this camaraderie of fellow travellers.
Writing takes you places within yourself. If a good writing process means making yourself vulnerable to get to those authentic places, it is equal parts about reaching out and asking for help when you get stuck.
Have you ever been stuck somewhere terrifying before?