Climbing a mountain in the blind

Guest post by Mirjana Krisanovic:

In April this year I climbed two mountains. The first one rose 5000 meters above the jungle of Nepal. The second one was inside my head. Still today, I am unsure which one was the biggest challenge. As I am blind mountain climbing is easier said than done.  I will, however, not let that stop me.

This is my story of my amazing adventure to Nepal.

My way to the top of the mountains started in 2012 when my dance teacher told me “With that attitude you can climb mountains!”

Little did I know how he planted a seed inside my heart with those words . This seed slowly grew into a dream: One day to climb a mountain.

The Extra Dimension

Being blind is no excuse

On my way to Kyanijn Ri

It was also during this time I met Helene Nilsson, a woman who has been on many adventures around the world among which mountain climbing is one of them. Helene and I soon became good friends and suddenly my dream of climbing a mountain started to become real. Helene inspired me and one day we simply decided to find a mountain and climb it.

I lost my eyesight when I was 10 years old.

This would be quite a challenge to anyone who is about to climb a mountain for the first time. To me this has an extra dimension to it because I am blind. I lost my eyesight when I was 10 years old.

Finding Sponsors

Since I was going to Nepal as a part of a charity project I am participating in Helene and I decided to use this opportunity and climb the local mountain Tsergo Ri.

After making this decision I faced the first major challenge: How would I finance this trip? Since I am blind I need a helper to accompany me – especially on a journey like this. In other words I needed to find the money to pay for not only my own expenses but also for my helper’s.

For months I literally worked day and night. When I was not in school I was out talking to sponsors. Yes, it was hard work but I would let nothing stop me because I had set my mind to this mission.

Demons in my Head

As the day of our departure drew closer I started to get nervous. To succeed in this project I not only had to climb a mountain with all the dangers that are involved in that; it also meant winning the battle against the demons inside my head.

You are worthless! You are a looser. You cannot do anything.

Nepal traveling

Trust is the word. I rely on the guidance from my helper to tell me where to put my feet.

I know these demons very well. They are all echoes from my childhood, stupid things said to me by kids in school: You are worthless! You are a looser. You cannot do anything.

Climbing this mountain was a way to prove to them and myself that they were all wrong. But I could not help but wonder: What on Earth have I gotten myself into? I am brave or just crazy? I decided I am a little bit of both.

Chaos in Kathmandu

When we stepped out of the terminal in Kathmandu, Nepal we faced chaos. I was surrounded by a cacophony of car horns, people shouting and adding to that the air was full of exhaust and dust which made it difficult to breathe.

Honestly, I panicked a little bit. I remember thinking to myself: “My God – how am I going to survive this?” But then I focused on the reason why I was there in the first place and joined the others in the waiting taxi.

Driving from the airport it suddenly hit me; this would be the first time I experienced the mountains since I became blind.

Realizing that I will actually never see the mountain that we set out to climb made me sad. Thankfully my good friend Helene supported me by describing the surroundings to me in detail. Through her eyes I saw Kathmandu, the colors of the houses and the beautiful landscape.

A Whisper from the Guide

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It was hard work climbing that mountain.

The first day the trail consisted mostly of rocks. The road we followed was made of gigantic boulders and we mostly crawled our way forward.
Despite the heat from the burning sun and the rocky road I gave it my best and actually thought I was doing quite well. However, our guide seemed to have a different opinion. At one time I heard him whisper to someone behind me: “We are behind schedule but we cannot walk faster because of her”.

Ouch – that hurt. I pretended that I had not heard him and tried to pick up the speed. But after sulking about his words for a while I realized that he was right.

We cannot walk faster because of her

Off course me being blind affected our speed of travel. What did he expect? So I decided to let it go and by doing that I also conquered the first mountain on my journey.

 

A Dream Coming True

When we finally got the signal to stop for the night I was so tired I could fall asleep where I was standing. It was a relief to take of the back pack and get something to eat.

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The wind was cold but the air was fresh.

Sitting by the camp fire feeling the warmth from the flames was spectacular. Even though I was dead tired I also felt this tickling energy in every cell of my body: after months of preparation and hard work we actually were on our way. It was a dream come true.

Don’t Think About the Slope

On our second day the landscape changed from a monkey filled jungle to an open landscape. The serpentine road slowly led us upwards and soon it was hard to breathe as the air got thinner.

The lack of oxygen made the hiking harder and the back pack heavier. I really had to force my legs to keep going even though they were begging me to stop.

Helene told me to walk really careful because the slope to the left was steep and falling down would not be pleasant

The road narrowed and ended in a slim path. With my right hand I felt the mountain side and on my left there was nothing. Helene told me to walk really careful because the slope to the left was steep and falling down would not be pleasant.

I tried to divert my thoughts from the slope and concentrated on the directions from my helper. However, there was this annoying voice in my head that kept on repeating:

“Don’t think about the slope. Oh my God what will happen if I fall? Will I die? No, don’t think about the slope.”

Surely the mind is not always playing along!

During the day the wind grew stronger and it was difficult to hear the guidance from Helene and my helper. I was dripping with sweat and it felt like I was breathing through a straw. As the hours went by I got extremely tired and started tripping over the rocks.

Afterwards Helene told me she could see how hard I was struggling and had been afraid that I would give up.

No Retreats and no Surrender

Several times during our hike to the summit I got strong emotional reminders of the earthquake that hit Nepal last year. Our guide repeatedly stopped and described the ruins surrounding us. He said: “There used be village right here were we are standing. Now everything and everyone who lived here are gone, covered in stones and rocks. No one survived.”

WOW – that was heartbreaking and I cried every time our guide said those horrible words. I could not stop thinking about the horror it must have been for the people who lived here and how lucky I was to only be passing by.

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Parts of the path was narrow and covered with wet rocks.

However, in the middle of all the ruins I also found hope. It came from the sound of tools working to rebuild the homes and villages. “Bang, bang, bang”. The hammering and sawing – a promising sound coming from people working hard to start all over.

I could not stop thinking about the horror it must have been for the people who lived here and how lucky I was to be only passing by.

These people never give up, even though their home was destroyed. As one man said to me when we stopped next to the remains of what used to be his house. ”No retreats, No surrender. We save the tears for the night”. He sounded very brave but I could hear the sadness in his voice.

A Key Ring on my backpack

It was in that same village a young girl and her family reminded me of what true gratitude really is. As we walked passed I heard a young girl talking to me. I did not understand her words but it was clear from her voice that she wanted something from me.

Helene told me the girl was pointing curiously at the teddy bear key ring I had on my backpack. With out hesitation I gave her my key ring and I will never forget the hug she gave me and how happy she sounded when she thanked me.

To me it was only a key ring. To her it was much more. She had lost all she had in the earth quake, the least I could do was to give her a new toy

Trust is the Word

We continued our journey to the mountain. After a few days on what was easy walking compared to what we had ahead of us we started to get higher, and soon there was no sound of people rebuilding their homes. The only sounds came from the birds and the wind.

I have to admit: There were times I felt really afraid. Remember that I cannot see and to one hundred percent rely on the guidance from my helper. Trust is the big word here. Every step I took was depending on her judgment of the narrow track we walked.

Just imagine the difference from walking on the pavement in the city compared to walk on a bulky and narrow trail on slippery rocks. I had to concentrate in a way I never had done before. If I wanted to get to that mountain top I had to focus on my helper’s guidance for every step I took.

Perhaps that does not sound so difficult but then remember that we were surrounded by the high-pitched chattering from birds and the noise from a turbulent stream that we followed for hours.  All sounds that I had to filter out to be able to hear her instructions.

Just imagine the difference from walking on the pavement in the city compared to walk on a bulky and narrow trail on slippery rocks. I had to concentrate in a way I never had done before. If I wanted to get to that mountain top I had to focus on my helper’s guidance for every step I took.

My friend helped me and showed where I should put my hands and feet. At times when the wind was so strong that I could not hear her voice she had to led me with a rope.

Spiders and Mosquitoes

After days with good weather we got the first rain. It rained a lot. It felt as if I was standing in a waterfall. Everything got soaking wet and soon I felt the freezing cold as well. The comfort of a tent and the warm sleeping bag was really nice, however, one morning Helene told me there was a gigantic spider on my pillow next to my head. I guess it was also looking for cover from the rain.

Normally I do not mind spiders but I prefer them to be somewhere else than in my bed….

Finally the sky cleared up. The sun came back and dried our clothes and tents.  That felt nice but this time the sun brought with it a horde of mosquitoes. These bastards were everywhere, day and night, biting every part of unprotected skin.

I remember one morning getting dressed and the sound from all the buzzing insects was driving me crazy. I literally felt like they were eating me alive.

Change of Plans

The night before we reached our destination the guide brought us some really bad news; we could not get to the top. This was maybe the worst moment during the entire trip. We had come so far, worked so hard, gotten bitten by a zillion insects – but still our mountain top was as far away as it always had been.

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On the final stretch I let go of her hand and crawled my way to the mountain top.

Due to bad weather and the destruction from the earthquake the final stretch of the way was severely damaged. It would be very risky to journey this way and the guide did not recommend it.

Well I did not want to give up that easy. So after feeling lost for a few moments I got an idea. What if we climbed another mountain? Basically this adventure was about climbing a mountain – no matter which one.

The guide though about it for a moment and said that yes actually there was. It was the Kyanijn Ri and it was only a bit lower than the Tcergo Ri.

Basically this adventure was about climbing a mountain – no matter which one.

We quickly decided to change plans and mountain. This was another important lesson to me; Learning that it is okay to redirect as long as I keep my dream. I understood it was not a failure to climb another mountain than we had planned for. On the contrary, it would be really stupid to risk all of our lives just because we were too stubborn to change our minds.

I felt happy and proud. One by one the demons voices in my head went silent.

The Mountain in my Head

We followed a serpentine path with rocks covered by snow. It was tough to climb but mentally it was much harder to go down in order to climb the next hill. I was tired but as we got nearer to the top I became really excited and felt revitalized.

The final stretch was narrow and there was no room for my helper to walk beside me. I let of her hand and climbed in front of her. Now I was just meters from my big goal.

The feeling when I finally reached the top of the mountain was magical and an incredible happiness filled my soul. Never have I felt so proud of myself and I just raised my hands to the sky and shouted from the top of my lungs. It was a scream full of joy and excitement.

Not only had I climbed Kyanjin Ri I had also climbed an even bigger mountain: The one inside my head

What’s Next?

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The biggest mountain is the one inside your head.

The mountain climbing in Nepal was just the beginning of a fantastic journey of my life. My next adventures will take me to New Zealand and USA.

I am already searching for sponsors and a helper who would like to join me. My mission in life is to show the world that only the sky is the limit.

I have learned the hard way that if I want to do something with my life it is my own responsibility to make it happen.

Look – I might be blind but I still can see that most people give up too easily on their dreams. We tend to listen to the demons in our heads or the negative people at school or maybe even within our family.

I have learned the hard way, that if I want to do something with my life it is my own responsibility to make it happen.

Join me at Facebook and share your story of how you climbed your mountain. If you would like to know more about sponsorship please send me an email on: miris@bredband.net.

 

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1 Response

  1. Lily says:

    You mean I don’t have to pay for expert advice like this anrmeyo?!

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