A view from the top does not look the same for everyone. For some it may literally be the top of a mountain, for others, it might be the finish line of a marathon, a diploma, a promotion, or owning a business, a successful marriage, or the view from the front porch of your dream home.
One thing is for sure though—the view from the top is not an easy climb. It is a string of small steps taken one by one to finally reach the peak. Some steps are harder to take than others, and it's in those steps that the secret to success is found.
Recently I was challenged by a literal mountain in a way I haven't been challenged in a long time. People familiar with Pleasant Valley in Montana know of the famous sleeping giant resting on the northern horizon—his nose representing the tallest peak of the mountain.
Although everyone traveling through central Montana has seen the sleeping giant, few have seen the view from the tip of his nose. The easiest access to the trailhead is complicated, because it comes only through special permission of the family who has lived on the surrounding land for many generations. Luckily the Montana Wilderness Association obtains annual permission to lead hikers to the top. For years I have tried to get on this hike (it feels like there is a waiting list to get on the waiting list for this hike) and this year I finally made it off the waiting list.
The hike to the base of the nose of the giant was slightly challenging. There were times it was a little too steep for my comfort, but I kept pushing on one step at a time. I remember the relief I felt when the group finally reached the base of the nose. It was a nice flat area with plenty of shade and room to roam. The Missouri River flowed lazily below, and the two columns that make up the nose towered above us. As I inspected the hike to the saddle between those two towers, I discovered it was even steeper than the climb I had already made, and my brain kept telling me I could probably get up there, but coming down would be a completely different story. Trust me, my brain did everything it could do to talk me out of continuing on the second part of this hike. However, as the group started moving up, I followed, ignoring my self-doubt.
There were times I paused on my way to the saddle convinced I was going to turn back and there were times I think I even crawled my way up on all fours. However, one step at a time, or sometimes even a slow crawl, I made it to the saddle of the nose. At this point, I was extremely proud of myself, but still scared out of my mind of the trip back down and I still had the daunting task of scrambling to the top of the rock staring me down. I spent the short break taken at the saddle trying to decide my next move. My brain was practically screaming at me to stay put, but once again the group started moving forward, and I found myself among them.
This part of the climb was way more than I expected. I had never been on a trail where a rock scramble was required to get to the top. I kept moving toward the top step by step with encouragement and advice from the other members of the group. I kept moving even after my finger was bitten by a piece of falling rock dislodged by the hiker above me. I didn't even realize how much my finger was bleeding (yep, I gave that giant a bloody nose) until we were on a small landing. This is when my brain really started screaming at me, "What are you doing? You are going to die!" As another hiker tended to my bleeding finger, I was pretty convinced this is where I would stay—after all, I had already come so much farther than I thought I could. The whole group started moving onward, and I found my body resisting all the warnings in my brain and following along. This part of the hike was definitely supported by two fellow hikers providing me with safe footholds and encouragement, and before I knew it I was finally setting foot on the tip of the nose of the Sleeping Giant.
The time at the top was filled with feelings of accomplishment mixed with feelings of dread. I was so proud of getting to the top because I knew I would probably not do this hike again, but also dread because I kept thinking of the trip back down. I embellished my time at the top. At first I could not stand at the top, but eventually, I found my feet and roamed the top soaking up the sun, and taking in the breathtaking views.
The first hikers started scooting down the mountain on their butts, and I knew I couldn't do this climb down alone, but I also knew from the climb up I wouldn't have to. It was teamwork and perseverance that got me to the top of the mountain, and that is exactly what helped my successful return to the saddle. The positive vibes and patience of the whole group made this day even more incredible.
The funny thing about the trip back down; the scramble to the top had provided me with the confidence in my hiking skills that I did not have before, and though it was slow and steady, my trip back down was much easier than it had been on the way up. The extremely hard steps I took towards the top made the hard steps I had experienced earlier a little easier. My climb to the top of this mountain taught me a valuable lesson in life—I have to push through the extremely hard to make the hard stuff a little easier.
I have conquered one of my mountains, and the good news is you can do hard things too. You have before and you will again. I believe in you!
My challenge for you–
What is one hard thing you can do today or this week to get you closer to your view from the top? Write it down, and then go do it! What are you waiting for? Go climb your mountain!