Life is funny.
About 36 hours ago, I wrote "Steel on the Inside, Silk on the Outside."
I think most guys are afraid to do this – to wear light colors, to go to a spa, to being silly and lighthearted, these traditionally feminine things. I think most guys go out of their way to appear tough, rugged, macho. And you know why? I think it’s because most of ‘em are soft on the inside, scared, powerless, aimless.
My philosophy is be as strong as steel on the inside, and light and gentle like silk on the outside.
On to be defined
Saturday, 2 November. Yesterday, i had somehow managed to climb to the top of Jebel Toubkal, N. Africa's highest peak ... albeit literally step by step, taking much more time than folks who often climb mountains usually take. I am still surprised that i actually reached the peak!
The trek started from Imlil lodge on Friday morning and by the time I reached the base refuge at 3207mH in the late afternoon that day, I thought I had done enough mountain climbing through the rocky atlas mountain range. It must have been close to 0°C at that level, as I was so cold, I layered on all the clothes I brought, tucked into the sleeping bag with a heavy blanket and had to wait a few hours before my body temperature felt human. I skipped dinner just so I didn't have to leave my body-heated cocoon.
Most trekkers leave the base camp at about 5am so they can catch the sunrise at the top. All i had in mind was to climb as far up as I could possibly manage and be happy with whatever that level was... technically I can still honestly say I climbed Mt Toubkal after that, right? So off I went in the pre-dawn darkness following the little LED light of my Toubkal guide. Climbing in the dark was certainly helpful, one can see only as far as the lighted spot ahead and hence that is only as far as one goes. It snowed up there last week and soon we had to cross patches of ice. The sky lightened up soon enough and i could see where the mountain top was... but nope, what I was looking at apparently wasn't the peak of Toubkal, the most lofty one was hidden behind the visible peak. Trekking time is relative, so I soon figured out it made no sense for me to ask the guide how far longer...if I ever did reach the top, it would be my personal time record. My extremities were all frozen cold despite my thermal gloves and loaned hiking boots; my nose was dripping which was quite inconvenient as I had to keep removing my gloves each time I wanted to wipe my dribbling nose with a damp tissue.
For no logical reason whatsoever, I struggled on step by step by step, zig-zaging between the rocks, boulders and ice and frankly I was more worried about how I was going to go back down because going downhill always scares me. A group of trekkers on the same path kindly shared some dates (frozen dates are chewy) and also kindly left me a walking stick, which every trekker seemed to have except me. Frankly, I was really not properly equipped and apart from my National Geographic explorer's jacket I purchased recently from Madrid, all I had on my was stuff I pulled together from my non-winter wardrobe. "Nearly there" .. the guide kept telling me, which I took with a huge rock of salt, because even when I caught sight of the little shelter marking the summit of Mt Toubkal, it still seemed so far away. Maybe it was the thought of having come so far, and that it was silly to abandon mission just 100m or so short of the top, that pushed me. "But it seems so far up..." I must have whined out loud... my brain is fuzzy about that and also how I eventually made it and clambered over the last rock to gaze over at all the other less lofty mountain peaks around. There was no big adrenaline rush (think my nerves were frozen too) nor overwhelming sense of achievement. It was more like: "ok, now that i am here on top, what's next?" plus: "going down the way we came up was going to be really tricky." The sun was up and we spent a few minutes just lying on the warm rock at 4167mH. A bunch of young germans had reached the summit by then and were congratulating themselves on reaching the top, and were taking the requisite photos for their FB pages later. I guess at that moment, being up there by myself (the guide doesn't really count) kinda felt lonely... (now who was it who said it's lonely at the top?).