In Arthur’s Pass you’ll find a number of amazing walks. Some take you further into the mountains, up the mountains, over the mountains and down into the valleys on the other side. These walks in New Zealand are called tramps.
One of my favourites is up a very steep mountain side called Avalanche Peak. For a long time you climb up through a beautiful natural native beech forest and you can pretend, without a lot of effort, that you’re back in time, somewhere maybe in the Jurassic. As you climb, the forest begins to shorten in height and thin out and then, almost by magic, you come to the bush line and in front of you on your climb is nothing but tussock and rock. You get a sense that you’ve made it. There’s a feeling that you’re at the top. And in fact you can see the ridge line climb up ahead of you and you can make out the summit.
It’s about fifty metres away.
So I always think, I’ll do the last hard yards and stop there. At the summit. Fifty metres away.
But when I climb further I find that the knob of rock that I thought was the summit, is actually just hiding another peak, further up the ridge. Still, it’s manageable. It’s maybe twenty metres away.
So I don’t stop. I don’t pause and take a looksie at where I’ve been. I miss the last sounds of the bush birds; I miss the gecko bathing in the sun; I miss the view of the valley below and how I can see the people in the car park below mingling around like little dots worrying about their packets of crisps and remembering to blow on their hot pies.
I carry on.
My legs are heavier now, but I’m still enjoying the climb and because the summit is just up there I get a pinch of adrenalin that flows through to my legs helping me put in extra effort.
As I climb the final twenty metres it becomes more and more obvious that this isn’t going to be the summit after all. For a couple of metres I wonder if my eyes are playing tricks on me. Yes, it is the summit, yes I’m sure it is, I tell myself.
But then I realise it isn’t.
It’s just another rocky outcrop.
I’ve climbed Avalanche Peak many times. And I should know what to expect. This is a climb of multiple false summits. Sometimes when the weather is fine you can see them climbing up into the sky in front of you. But other times if it’s raining or the clouds surround you like a mist, then you have no idea where you’re actually at.
Once you do finally reach the top. It is amazing. It is so worth it. But often the wind is howling up there and it’s freezing cold, and the sweat on your back quickly changes from the godsend of cooling you down in your exercise generated frenzy, to being just another freezing temperature for you to endure. I’d like to spend all day on the summit, but I never do. I’d like to take my time and take a really long look at what I’ve achieved, but I never do.
I now need to get back down, before I freeze!
On my climb there have been so many missed opportunities to enjoy what I’ve achieved. The summit has been so worth it, but there has been so much that I’ve failed to see, that I’ve missed out on the way.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Although my story is true, it’s also a great parable for our Principal/Leadership journey. It seems a timely one to tell it as we head into the school break.
Take the break away to take time to pause. You have summited, even though there are more summits to climb. You have done enough this term, even though you might feel that there was more to do. Take time to look at where you have been and be more than satisfied – be in awe.
And if none of this story hits the mark for you, then at the very least have an amazing break and use this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon as your inspiration for the next two weeks.