Some weeks ago, I got a visit from my beloved sister Karin Roy (a.k.a., Little sunshine). I had grand plans for her visit, but for the most part the weather effectively kept us from doing much more than getting immensely wet.
It wasn’t until Karin only had two days left in town that the weather forecast finally showed some good spirit and glimpes of the sun. And so,we decided to launch our main plan – to do the Vengsøy traverse together with Tanja Sontag and Karin Undin.
Now, I know that this blog is filled with photos of me and my friends doing things that a lot of people consider to be high-risk activities. I also know that many people consider me to be a risk-taking person, or perhaps as a risk-taking fool.
Personally, I consider myself to be an infinitely risk avert hare.
I am scared of almost everything – avalanches, cliffs, global warming, cancer, close friends’ health, and less close friends’ health, making a fool of myself, not being good enough, and making mistakes. I get agitated for nothing, and whenever that happens, I can hear my little hare heart jumping in my chest: bubump-bubump-bubumpbubumpbubump.
I never wanted to grow up to be a hare…
I often think of my little hare heart as a royal pain in the ass. All that pounding is annoying, and being so worried all the time really ruins the fun of it all. On the other hand, every time that I manage to beat the hare, I feel happy as a bumble bee. So I keep fighting my hare within.
During Karin’s visit, I chose to fight the hare at Vengsøy. I thought that the traverse over the small Arctic island would be a suitable challenge.
Well it certainly was a challenge.
The first climb was rough but fun. While Tanja has quite a lot experience of climbing and running on ridges and ledges, the rest of us are more or less novices in that type of terrain. But even though we all looked more or less like Gollum, we enjoyed ourselves as we scrambled towards the first and highest summit on the ridge, Vengsøytinden.
The view also made my long hare ears flutter, and my little hare head spin. My little hare heart just had one thing to say: Bu-bump-bubump-bubumpbubumpbubumpbubump.
The route down from Vengsøytinden and up Hornstinden is described as “a bit airy” in the internet guides that I have read, but there is supposedly not any need for climbing equipment. Perhaps if you are Norwegian. To my hare eyes, the ridge of Hornstinden looked like a place where you wear both suspenders and a belt.
All my little hare brain could think about was what would happen if someone slipped, either on the way up, or on the way down if we had to turn around.
I felt terrified. As I always do. But I pushed on. As I normally do.
I had to use a quite substantial amount of effort to convince my little hare heart to stay put in my chest, though. As we reached the first little crux on the ridge – an exposed overhanging rock with very good grips – I needed to first just stand and look at it for about 15 minutes and then forced everyone to climb both up and down to see that we could do it. It took forever of course.
That made my little hare heart stop.
The mere thought of going up made me shiver. I went up a small distance to feel the rock. I could not see or feel any proper grips, only round ledges.
The hare won. I pulled the plug and bailed.
As a consequence, we didn’t even get half way through the Vengsøy traverse.
As we strolled back towards our tent on the beach, I felt ashamed. I have to be the worst partner ever. I ruin everything with my worry. I hate my hare heart. But when I asked Tanja what her thoughts were on what had happened up on that ridge, she answered that she was thankful that I carry the burden of worrying about all the if:s and but:s, for myself and for everyone else.
I never thought of it that way.
As we stood up there by the eye of the troll, I painted out all scenarios that I could think of, with all the information that I had at hand: since neither of us had been there before, we didn’t know what the rest of the climb was like, or the descent on the other side. All we knew was that it would be a bit “airy”. We were time constrained since Karin was leaving with an early flight the next day and since the last ferry would leave at 9 pm. We didn’t have very much food. We might get up, but it looked as if it would be very difficult to get down again if we couldn’t move forward. Karin and Karin had really bad shoes.
So perhaps my little hare heart is not all bad. Perhaps it has a positive side to it too.
A few days after beloved Sunshine had gone home to Sweden again, Tanja and Karin offered me to join them for an evening hike up Store Blåman. I was there with my other sister, hollow tree, I year ago so this time I knew what I was getting myself into. But of course, I started to worry anyway.
What about the snow fields on the mountains? What about all those wet rock slabs? Surely, they would be slippery as hell and throw us into the abyss!
On the way up, I worried constantly about getting down.
My little hare heart refused to stop it’s frantic pounding at my ribs. It wasn’t until we reached the very summit that I could sit down, and admire the grandeur around us.
I think that I should live as I teach.
I have worked really hard on separating my rational from my irrational fears in avalanche terrain, but until just now, I have not realized that I need to do the same in every other aspect of my life as well. Our decision to turn back on Vengsøy was probably wise, but letting my irrational heart get the overhand whenever it feels like it, or lying awake in the night thinking about all the what if:s in the world is probably less of a good idea.
To stay both safe and happy, I think I need take a cool off both my head and my heart, and choose which battles my little hare heart and I should fight.