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Practicing: Mind Over Matter (“The Labyrinth” Edition)

Posted Sep 10 2012 2:55pm

Of all the joys on earth, few compare to the crowning glory of achieving against the odds, succeeding in the face of peril, or triumphing over adversity. Yet in every such case, without exception, the poor odds, the peril, and the adversity must come first. ~ This was my “Note From The Universe” on the morning of Friday, September 7, but I didn’t know it because I didn’t read it until several days later.

Tim and I arrived at The Mohonk Mountain House  on Thursday, September 6th to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We’d been to Mohonk once before, in November of 2009, but were unable to get out much because there’d been an unseasonable cold snap and it was about 5 degrees! We decided that we’d go back when we could count on nicer weather.

On Friday morning I took a Tai Chi class, we went for a three-mile hike, had some lunch, and decided to tackle The Labyrinth. We’d seen the sign (click photos to enlarge) and knew it would be a challenge, but doable.

Our experience has been that these types of things are usually easier than advertised. We were told that if we could make the first 100 feet, we’d be fine. We were also told that it would require use of all five points (both hands, both feet, and one bottom). And finally we were told that there were three “bail-out” paths, and if we decided to continue to the end (“The Crevice”), we’d be committed…we would not be able to go back.

The Labyrinth “path” (marked with red arrows painted on the rocks) hugs the side of a cliff off which boulders had fallen. It starts near the edge of Mohonk Lake (to the far left in the photo…you can see the entrance just above the roof of the wooden gazebo) and ends near the Sky Top summit, approximately 1500 feet up (see the tower at the top on the right?).

Once we started we realized there’d be very little actual walking; instead we scrambled over and squeezed under huge boulders and slabs, and climbed crude ladders built into the rocks. It was definitely challenging, at times precarious (both physically and mentally) but doable. We found that once our bodies adapted, it was quite fun. It didn’t take long to work up a total body sweat.

At this point we were happy and confident. We owned those rocks!

This was the last bail-out marker. It says, “To Crevice.”

I took this photo half way up…looking up.

We entered The Crevice and walked the path between sheer walls about 100 feet high. The photo above was taken just inside The Crevice, looking back.

It narrowed the farther in we got. Up ahead we saw a ladder about 10 inches wide, which went straight up and leaned slightly to the left.

This was nothing like what we’d already done. There were several “Oh shit, what are we going to do now?” moments.

I decided to go first. Climbing, first those rocks, then the ladder, required more mental strength than physical. I later read this description: “A skinny split between cliff faces reveals The Crevice – a claustrophobia-inducing ladder climb to a 1,500-foot ridge.”

At the top of the ladder was a tiny ledge. From there I looked up and realized there was still another 10 feet to the top, but there was no ladder, very little room in which to maneuver and no apparent way to get out (unless you’re an experienced rock climber)…and there was no going back.

I panicked (and forgot to take a photo). I imagined that we’d have to be rescued. I called out, “Is there anyone up there?” Tim was worried too, but said we’d be able to figure it out. All I could imagine was lifting myself up only to fall and get stuck, like a cork in a bottle, between the rocks. It took several tries (not to mention psyching myself out) before I was able to figure out where to put my hands and feet – not to mention trust my body.

And finally I was out! I crawled out of The Crevice and onto the ridge.

We often hear the phrase, “Face your fear and do it anyway.” If I am honest, had The Crevice been described to me in more detail – if I knew what it was really like – I probably would have taken that last bail-out path. But because I had no other choice, I had to do it, and for that I am really glad.

I won’t say that it was easy physically because it required quite a bit of agility and stamina, but it certainly taught me that most physical challenges really are mind over matter – this one required use of six points: both hands, both feet, one bottom, and one mind.

Cheers to us!

What was your greatest physical/mental challenge? Were you prepared for it or was it a surprise? Do you think knowing ahead of time helps or hinders?

Note 1: if you’re curious to see a short video of someone else climbing The Crevice, click here . It provides perspective.

Note 2: The day we left, Mohonk was hosting the end of the eight-stage  SOS Triathalon , which included a 30-mile bike ride, 4.5-mile run to Awosting Lake, 1-mile swim, 5.5-mile run to Lake Minnewaska, 0.5-mile swim, 8-mile run to Mohonk Lake, 0.5-mile swim, then 0.7-mile (stee) run to the Albert K. Smiley Memorial Tower. In comparison, I think the Labyrinth was a breeze.

A view of Mohonk Mountain House from atop the Albert K. Smiley Memorial Tower (seen in photo above) at Sky Top Summit. I took this photo two days later when we hiked to the top “the easy way.”

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