Climbing Mount Tai One Step At A Time
Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
41Trip End Dec 13, 2010
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Ben said this quote to me this past weekend as I was standing on the edge of a cliff looking down one of the tallest mountains in China.
Mount Tai is located north of the city of Tai’an, in Shandong Province. It is known as one of the “Five Sacred Mountains” and has been a place of worship for at least 3, 000 years. When we arrived to Mount Tai this past weekend, we had two choices in order to get to the very top of the mountain. We could either take a 15 minute ride in a cable car, or we could take the stairs. We are all young, healthy and each of us has a good pair of legs. We look the challenge and began climbing the steps.
About two minutes into our treacherous climb, many of us had to admit that we were out of shape
Just when we thought we were close to the top of the mountain, we would look up and hundreds of more steps would appear before us. The steps were small and steep, a perfect combination for our big American feet to trip over. We eventually grew accustomed to tripping our way up the mountain steps. It was funny at first and then it became annoying.
It felt like we climbed the mountain all morning, but our final step together clocked us in at one hour and 30 minutes. We had made it!
At the top of the mountain, there is the opportunity to get a padlock engraved with something that you wish to stay the same in your life. For example, many married couples engrave their initials onto the padlock and latch it on to everyone else’s. They wish for their marriage to stay the same. Other wishes that people have engraved onto padlocks are family, health or happiness. While most our group members wanted a padlock, Ben and I wanted to explore the cliffs right next door
We told one of our group members where we were going and jokingly added, “Don’t leave without us!”
Ben and I were gone for about 30 minutes. In those 30 minutes, I stood at the edge of cliffs, inhaled life and saw the most beautiful scenery. It was an adrenaline rush creeping up to the edge of the giant boulders and looking down into an endless drop-off. But once I erased all fears of standing at the edge of the cliffs and seeing the view before me, the challenge and the fear I felt was worth what I was able to experience. “What’s life if you don’t challenge it?”
We made our way back to where we had left our group members, only to find that they were not there. Certainly they wouldn’t have left without us, so Ben and I searched the top of the mountain for about 30-40 minutes before coming to the conclusion that they if fact had left.
It wasn’t too difficult to figure out where they could have went. We were at the very top of the mountain so the only direction they could have gone is down
We were about halfway down the mountain and still no signs of any Americans, when all of a sudden, an older gentleman approached us and asked, “Are you Ben?” Ben replied, “Why yes I am!” He then informed us that our group members were looking for us and that he had seen them about 30 minutes ago. It was comforting to be informed that our group was nearby. He was the first of many more people to approach us and tell us that our group was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain.
About 20 minutes later and 5,000 painful steps behind us, we were reunited with the others. Of course, many people were not happy with us and we had prepared ourselves for it. However, there was not much we could do about what happened. We were together again, no one was hurt and life could move on.
At one point, as we were lost in the mountains, Ben asked me if I was worried. I took one look around me and said, “not at all.” I was in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in my life so far, I didn’t want to waste time with worry.
“What’s life if you don’t challenge it?” I have often thought that my life is invincible, but no one really understands how fragile life really is until he or she is put into a situation where death could possibly be right around the corner. It’s not bad to experience the feeling, I think everyone needs to challenge life to appreciate what living truly means. Go skydiving or stand on the edge of a cliff. Do something that scares you and causes you to feel the adrenaline rush through your body and the blood pumping through your veins. That is what living should feel like. That is life.