Day 4: Conquering the Mountain At Last!

“Breathe, Ro! Keep breathing!”

In what feels like a ginormous step forward, this morning I will be leaving the safety, comfort and security of the nest behind and leaping into the great unknown. That means moving beyond the magic carpet and heading over to Perisher’s Happy Valley with my instructor, Mark. While this feels like a huge step and I am understandably afraid, it is time. I have been working hard towards this, working on my turns and fitness so that I am ready. Time to put the cake in the oven and turn up the heat. After all the health crap I’ve been through in the last 12 months, I want to kick some serious butt and tell those mountains I’m back and I mean business. Even a huge, ginormous mountain is not going to hold this woman down. Just you wait. I’m going to turn that mountain around…again!

While so many beginners must just get out there onto the slopes without so much as a private lesson, I am the tortoise not the hare…slow and steady wins the race. My caution stems from my various medical issues which I’ve outlined in previous posts but I have also come to appreciate the benefits of solid training and building good technique step by step like building a Lego creation. This training has given me more control over my skis and when I’ve felt myself starting to lose it, I’ve been able to correct my position and turn to slow down instead of falling. I’m also not too proud to admit that I’ve appreciated using a lot of the terms the ski instructors use to teach the kids: making pizzas, skiing like a banana or stopping like french fries. These terms are all so visually graphic that they work very well for me and so much better than technical talk.

There have been a lot of discussions with Geoff and the kids and my instructors about the best way to get me off the magic carpet or beginner’s area and onto a real slope and back down the mountain.  Now, we have a plan. Mark will tow me across to the quad chair which we will ride up to Mid Station, home of all those sumptuous hot chocolate slathered in swirls of rich cream served with marshmallows which melt into a gooey dream.Only this time, I will be skiing passed the hot chocolate and down Happy Valley and will then catch the Happy Valley T-Bar back up to Mid-Station. Usually, you would then ski down Front Valley to return to the village but this is too much for me so Mark will take my skis back while I catch the quad chair down.

How it Went

We took the magic carpet up the top and skied across and then I held onto one of Mark’s poles as he started towing me. Being towed was great fun. I just glided over the snow while Mark did all the hard work…especially as he heaved me up a small hill near the chairlift. Oh my goodness. I’d only been on a chairlift once before and it’s rather nerve wracking juggling skis, poles and trying to get onto a moving object without falling over backwards but the only dramas were in my head. Managed to get on and off without a hitch. I was seriously impressed.

After totally freaking out last year when I looked down from the top of Front Valley, I decided not to look down this year. Indeed, I just kept watching the back of Mark’s skis following him down. All I saw was skis and snow although the snow gums around me sort of registered. We were about half way down when I needed a bit of a rest and we pulled up under some snow gums and caught my breath. I am so pleased we stopped because those trees were so beautiful, peaceful and serene…an oasis of calm in the midst of my stressful challenge. It was hard work trying to follow Mark and implement his instructions. I’m not sporty so I’m not used to moving my body around like this.

Yet, the journey continued. My legs were sore but I hadn’t fallen over and the T Bar was now within sight. I could let myself ski that little bit faster and enjoy the last bit of the ride.

At around this point, Geoff and the kids appeared. They first saw me starting the trip down from Mid Station. The kids were coming up the Tbar but fell off. They were still ahead of me. They saw us resting under the tree and wondered whether I’d stacked or whether I was ill but couldn’t reach me. They skied back down and came down again and by this stage I’d gone.

When I reached the bottom and was skiing towards the TBar, Mark called out: “Welcome to Skiing”.

I’d conquered the mountain again and surprise or all surprises…I hadn’t fallen over at all.

Once again the terror is taking

There is something mystical about mountains that has lured dreamers, artists, poets, adventurers and also the completely overwhelmed who are both physically and emotional stonkered. They are either a challenge to be conquered or the barrier blocking the road to our dreams and even our bare neccesities often enough.

When asked why climb Mt Everest, English mountaineer George Mallory was an  who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s, famously said: “Because it is there.”

My personal battle with mountains is a bit more complicated. Ever since I was diagnosed with this auto-immune disease which attacks my muscles, I’ve had this weird new desire to climb a mountain. Not so much because it is there but because this disease has put a a road block up around the mountain and stuck up a nasty, forboding sign:  “Strictly No Entry, Rowena!!”

Of course, that kind of rudeness only makes me more determined.

At the same time, my disability is what it is. Not everybody can, or even wants to climb up Everest and when I came up with an alternative plan to ski down the mountain instead, I was stoked. While all these others survivors had climbed up mountains, I hadn’t heard of anyone else skiing down the mountain instead. This was my very own, personal challenge and last year I pulled it off.

However, rather than this success being the beginning of a whole new positive chapter and being able to finish a motivational book which

For three years now, I have been doing battle with the m

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