During our Workaway in Austria, we were lucky enough to be stay in the village of Sankt Johann in a house right on the ski slope of the Kitzbüheler Horn, a mountain that rises up to 1,996 meters (6,548 ft) above sea level.
Although we walked up the steep hill to the house many times and I made myself intimately familiar with the bottom part of the mountain through my frequent short morning runs or afternoon hikes, nothing was as fulfilling as hiking up from the bottom of this gorgeous mountain all the way to the top to see the unobstructed views of the Wilder Kaiser and surrounding mountain ranges.
I was not planning on surpassing over 1500 meters of elevation difference and walking over 20 km that morning, but after I started my sunrise hike around 5 am, I did not want to miss out on the views as I walked up on those winding roads through the dense forests, open fields, and fresh pastures, higher and higher to more beautiful spots from which a wanderlust-inflicted soul would not want to return back down.
With vibrant colors all around from the Alpine summer revealing itself in full bloom and the environment changing every few hours as I passed through higher levels of elevation, I found myself at the top of the cable car station at about 1600 meters above sea level around 10 am.
At this point I could have simply walked back down the mountain or taken the cable car down almost to the house but something in me just couldn't resist that sweet challenge of hiking up the top of the mountain.
Two weeks earlier when I hiked up to the cable car station, the trail between it and the top of the Kitzbüheler Horn was closed due to snow. Although some patches of snow still remained, the hike was now considered to be safe enough and was estimated to take about 1.5 hours from the cable car station to the top. This being one of the few hikes to the top of an Alpine mountain that can be done on foot (instead of via ferrata using climbing gear), there were already throngs of other tourists making their way up to the top.
No mountain hiking experience has yet prepared me for what was to come.
The hike was so steep and with such narrow paths that even I, who would consider myself someone that is thrilled at the sight of heights, felt a slight tinge of nervousness as I looked down below me. Not being prepared to do such a hike that day, I was questioning whether I was taking on more of a risk than I should since I wasn't wearing proper hiking shoes.
Knowing myself too well though, it was clear that I wasn't about to stop or go back down that same narrow path and that I would keep going, trusting that my running shoes shall conquer this too.
As I got to the snowy patch a little past halfway through the hike, I saw a mother holding her young son on a special mountain leash as he was climbing up the mountain with her - and I thought to myself that if he can do it, so can I.
Steel cables were secured into the rock around the narrowest spots and they were definitely my best friends as I held onto them for a feeling of safety as I was trying not to look down too much while making sure that I was carefully placing my feet on the most stable spots on this rocky road.
Longing for a sip of water after chugging my 1.5 liters during the first few hours of the day and feeling my skin starting to turn red from the hot summer sun, I felt a sign of hope as I saw the transmission tower at the top get closer and closer and soon reached a more normal road where one did not have to hang onto steel cables…what a relief.
The panoramic view was more than worth it - if I wouldn't have climbed up the whole distance myself, it wouldn't be nearly as delicious.
Getting to the top right around noon, I decided to reward myself with lunch at the Alpine restaurant: fresh trout with potatoes and salad.
Since we had also planned on visiting the town of Kufstein that afternoon, I took the cable car down the mountain to get to the nearest train station in the beautiful town of Kitzbühel. My legs were grateful for sparing them from the rocky hike back down.
“Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”
– Theodore Roethke
When the uphill climb gets tough, keep going! Our strength is always shaped in those moments when we think we can't go further or when we are unclear in our direction, but it is in those times I believe you always have so much more in you to give, to push further, think outside the box and start following your bliss. Start now and then there will only be one thing to do - keep going - one tiny step at a time, one meter, one kilometer...onto infinity. Results will never be immediate but neither was your physical body when it was conceived.. one would think it was just a random group of cells and look at you now.. you are here despite everything you may have had to go through. You got this..whatever it is!