Goody Niosi discovered hiking more than forty years ago – by accident. She was on a European holiday when she took a train to the tiny alpine village of Engleberg high in the Swiss Alps. When she noticed what looked like an immense network of trails, she decided to take a short walk. And she never looked back.
She is still walking, although some of those strolls tend to be vertical, include tents and sleeping bags, and often last more than just a day or two.
Goody is an author of five books and has loved two careers: the first as a film editor and the second as a journalist. She is currently preparing her next book: a collection of short stories.
She lives in the Kootenays in British Columbia, documents her mountain adventures on her blog www.goodyniosi.com and publishes one of her short stories on her site every Tuesday.
“We have a choice,” our trip leader said. “We can go straight down the ridge to the lake – or we can go up to the high ridge on our right, walk the top to the other side, and then come down.”
Our small group of six unanimously chose the high ridge route. After all, Jen said. It’s not a knife-edge and there’s no exposure. Also, the morning was still young and we had all day.
We hiked steeply up the alpine meadow and arrived at a broad ridge within thirty minutes. The views were epic, including all the surrounding peaks of the Goat Range in British Columbia’s rugged interior. After a quick snack we set out on the ridge. The going was good, solid rock. And then the ridge narrowed. We were traversing on a tract that grew steeper and rockier until there was no way to continue but to shimmy down a boulder ledge and up again, clinging to rocks above a two thousand metre drop.
My heart pounded. My palms were sweaty. I felt my knees turn to water. When I rounded the ledge and clambered up again I was on a knife-edge. We descended gingerly about 50 metres into a small, broader bowl. To our right was a sheer drop. To our left, a boulder field angling sharply down to the lake. Straight ahead was our route: up a steep, narrow boulder-strewn ridge to a sharp pinnacle. We didn’t know what lay on the other side.
Possibly if that ridge had been solid rock, I might have said yes. I always say yes. I push my limits. I raise my comfort zone. It’s what I do. Most of all, I do what others do. I’m older. At seventy-one, I am almost always the oldest by more than a decade. I want to prove I can keep up. I don't ever want to hold people up or be pitied. I also don’t want to die just yet on the side of a mountain.
I have friends much younger who say “no” with ease. When they’re uncomfortable continuing, they simply stop. Why can’t I be more like that? I wanted to know. Why can’t I simply say “no” without a laundry list of fears and insecurities scrolling inside my head?
I looked up at the ridge that one person had scampered up as nimbly as a mountain goat. I said, “No.”
Surprisingly, the rest of the group also opted to angle down through the boulder field to the lake.
Two days later I was hiking with another group to the summit of Mount Crawford. At the summit block, I said, “No.” It came easier this time.
Sometimes it’s not about achieving great improbable feats – and I’ve had my share of those. But I am also learning that sometimes it’s about honouring yourself. Saying “no” can be just as important as saying “yes.”
Read more of Goody's stories on her website www.goodyniosi.com