A little while back an old climbing friend, Terry Ralphs suggested on Facebook, why not start a ‘good news’ Facebook page? With so much bad news in this world, I took his advice, but instead decided to go back and revisit this Blog I set up in 2015 or 16.
I haven’t seen Terry for years. The first time we met was back in the early 90’s. I’d been visiting North Wales and while my partner, Cubby was out mountain guiding, I hung around an area of boulders. Soon a slightly shy, but friendly man arrived and started up a conversation. I think possibly we bouldered together a little that day in the Llanberis Pass and over the years to come we occasionally bumped into each other again.
Bouldering at Llanberis Pass ( photo creditoutdoornorthwales.com)
In my twenties, I broke my back in a snowboarding accident. My partner, Cubby, was guiding in the Alps and unable to visit but he sent me some mumiyo (a resin from the rocks in Russia which was said to be good for broken bones). While I lay in bed unable to walk, Terry, who was guiding in Fort William at the time, came by with some slides. He projected them on the wall next to one of the other patients and we all had a lovely slideshow of some wonderful mountain regions across the world. Thank God, a few weeks later I was out and running in the hills again. Some years later, when we bought our own home, for a few months Terry became a lodger in our home in Ballachulish. It was always nice to have him around. The climbing lifestyle was like that, people dropping in and out and meeting up in different parts of the world. As climbers, we lived what probably looked like a free spirited life. Perhaps we were searching for something else? And maybe because so much time was spent outside in God’s wonderful creation we came to know something of God’s character and peace?
As I viewed Terry’s Facebook post, I saw his profile photo leaning against a large Cross in the Alps and I knew in my heart that his words to me actually had more meaning than he knew. I did want to write about good news, but not about the good news that was our good news (though that was always good to hear), but the ‘Good News’ that had the power to transform hearts, situations, lives and the very world we lived in. The Good News of Jesus Christ.
Before my repentance, Christ had appeared many times to me through a series of dreams, very often in rock climbing settings. I had seperated from my husband and a great void had opened up. In my first dream I was about to follow him up a huge slab of rock. It looked like Glen Etive. One of the last climbs we had made together was Cubby’s long climb called ‘Angel’ on the Etive slabs. Slab climbing had always brought fear into me. I didn’t enjoy friction climbing by any means and so my role on Angel was to follow and to make sure Cubby wouldn’t hit the slab of rock below on one of the crux overlap sections of the climb. He didn’t, and in his usual graceful style, he cruised quietly and gently up the rock place like a lizard, making little, if no, sound. Etive Slabs are a beautiful place and would, though little did I know at the time, it would be a place of significant memory for me in the future. On our return trip he tackled the last crux of the route. As we made our way towards this last pitch we witnessed as large dollop of fresh looking chalk on the blank slab next to us. It became clear with the amount of gear left in place that someone had taken a hard fall. Later we would find out that a father and son had been climbing together and during the walk off, his father had tripped over a clump of heather. Unroped, he hit the slab below, head first, and died. How tragic.
the impressive sweep of Etive Slabs
In my dream, I tried to follow the climb up the great area of slab. It looked like Etive Slabs or the slabs in Switzerland that I’d climbed on. As I tried to get a foothold onto the rock, the rock beneath my feet began to crumble away. A man with blonde hair on the beach looked up. I didn’t not recognise him but he had a peaceful way about him. I watched as Cubby climbed away into the distance. For many weeks I wondered who the man on the beach was?
Cubby loved bouldering at Etive. I sometimes joined him but the problems were so difficult and technical that I rather just enjoyed looking at the surrounding landscape and picking bilberries when they were in season.
picking berries. Author finding an easier problem on the boulders
Sadly the dream spoke of our marriage breakup. I guess in truth it had been on the rocks for many years. The Lighthouse that would have kept us off them we hadn’t seen, and time could not heal what had already been broken, our marriage vows to God.
In my anguish I began to solo climb in my own favourite climbing haunt in Glen Nevis. This was where I first met my future husband to be, and infact this is also where I did my first climb when I was seventeen with my first boyfriend. The Buttress was called Calvary Crack, aptly named because of the huge cross shape on it. On one of my days out I soloed ‘Calvary Crack’ itself, a classic and popular HVS. Where had life gone so wrong I wondered? As I continued to wander about the Glen, I found myself sitting up at High Crag. From the ground it could be recognised by its skull shaped rock. The crag overlooked the whole Glen and from there I found peace and quiet. Only years later did I find out that the place on which Christ was cruxified, Golgotha, was also skull-shaped. God was already drawing me back to Him but as yet I was unaware.
Golgotha with skull (Israel); High Crag with skull (Glen Nevis).
After our divorce I began to seek the truth of all things. Truth to the lies of this life I’d been living, truth to the reason for our existance and the truth of who I was.
I had grown up as a believer in Christ but that truth lay buried under a thick layer of debauched and sinful living, however in 2008, I sat down to paint what I felt and out of the canvas came a image. Enemies were attacking me but a shield of truth was deflecting the arrows. The truth was love, but whose love? Whose love could deflect the woundedness that these repeated attacks had caused and how could this love heal me?
I had another dream. This time I was climbing a sea stack. I froze with fear and could no longer move. My climbing friends were basking in sunshine atop the pillar of rock totally unaware of my struggle. I was alone, unable to move. After some time, I began to think my strength would wane, my fingers would uncurl and I would fall to my death.
I remembered back to a time in the 90’s when I had climbed in Glencoe with Andy Nelson. There had been a heatwave and I longed to be climbing in the mountains. Andy too was seeking someone to climb with and after a phone call we met in the car park. The beautiful wall of Freak Out was dry and Andy had his eye on an E5 there. I was unfit and hadn’t really climbed much in a while but reckoned I would be able to lead the easier pitches. I knew Andy a little but had never climbed with him. He had a warm nature and was a member of the local mountain rescue team in Glencoe. At least if things went wrong I would be in good hands! We set off and things seemed to go well. My pitch would be a long traverse pitch of 5c. Part way along the wall, I found I hadn’t warmed up enough and my muscles began to seize up. I kept my cool and thought it better to keep moving and get to the bigger holds before the pump kicked in. As I climbed across the wall on small edges, the pump came sooner than expected and as I was trying to get some marginal pieces of gear in, I found I could no longer use my fingers. Infact I knew at any moment they would unfurl and I would fall. I figured perhaps that would be okay, afterall, if I hurt myself Andy would be able to get me off safely. I had never thought like this before but now there seemed to be no choice. I was about to let go and fall when I noticed a small ledge beneath me and calculated that I would most probably hit it. I remembered a fall Cubby had had on that small wall when he was younger and how it had led to permanent hip damage in his later years. Suddenly out of no-where I summoned up some faith that the gear I had placed would hold a belay and asked Andy to join me part way along the pitch. It was a precarious situation but I knew that the pitch for Andy would be fine, and it was, and he took us both safely up the rest of the climb.
photo: climbers abbing off the wall of Freak Out, Glen Coe.
I felt silly and irresponsible. Everything in my life seemed to be falling apart and now my climbing too.
In 2008 I opted to go to Rome to help a friend move home. I had to clear my head. It was a crazy time and her life seemed to be in turmoil too. In between shifting her gear, I went for long walks through the centre of Rome. I slowed down and began to consider the Colosseum and the violence of the human mind in throwing humans to the lions at this time in history. How did man man get to this state?
Angel statute and The Colosseum in Rome
I wandered through small alleyways, stopping at fonts of water for a drink. Water was so refreshing, it flowed continously and looked so pure. And I looked up at the huge statues of naked Greeks gods and angels atop the impressive, historic buildings. One day we made our way to the Vatican but the queues were so long that we decided it was not worth the wait. The Greek gods and godesses didn’t appeal to me but the angel, somehow that struck a cord within and gave me a sign of hope of an unseen world, of man’s unseen divine nature.
In my dream I needed someone to help me now. I was filled with fear but no-one even knew I was there. Suddenly, a small, thin, red cord was dropped down to me. It looked like silk. It would not hold my weight but I had no choice, I reached up and grabbed it, and as I did I woke up.
The man on the beach, who was he? Who had dropped the red silk cord?
After my marriage break up I had met a man and we began dating. Cubby also met another partner and although there were no hard feelings between us, there was a great sadness in me. At first the relationship felt like a new start, full of adventure and vigour but after a couple of years it began to plummet. My mental health had plummetted too. I began to suffer from depression and knew something in my life had to change. I headed off on holiday to the lovely Greek island of Kalymnos to take more time out and met up with an old climbing friend from Quebec. It was a difficult time, memories flooded back of my time here with my husband and I could not deny my deterioating relationship with with my boyfriend.
the stunning island of Kalymnos
I made the journey alone, stopping over briefly in Greece. At Kos the flight to Kalymnos had been cancelled due to bad weather. A large group of foreign climbers gathered outside the airport. Some got buses to lodgings and others taxis to other places but many stood around waiting for that miracle of God. I waited too. Soon one had called a friend and a large open backed lorry arrived. We all piled in and were dropped off at a small pier. We had been told that if the weather permitted, we would get a boat ride for a fee to Kalynmos. It got dark and the waves were still large but soon a little light appeared and a small boat pulled up. He decided to take a chance and take us stranded climbers across. It was a hairy ride and by the time we got there, most of us were all soaked to the skin. Shaking the boat man’s hand we thanked him for his hospitality and grace.
By late evening I was reunited with my old friend Frederic again. We had met in Scotland in my 20’s and had shared a memorable climbing trip together to The Old Man of Hoy. Over the years we met on occasion in various locations. I respected Fred, for his morals were strong and now I needed a good friend to chat to, one with good morals. He was surprised to hear that Cubby and I had gone seperate ways and seemed to feel my distress. Both of us had now taking to smoking cigarettes, that was not a good sign for people who cared about their health. His path had taken him to becoming a doctor, and he seemed also to enjoy talking about politics with his other Canadian friends that had joined us. Times had moved on we were changed people, but perhaps not for the better. We talked of our stresses, our relationships, lives, hopes and dreams.
After the climb in Glencoe with Andy, I had no expectations of climbing well, infact I hadn’t climbed for over six weeks and I knew that meant feeling pumped and I would not be able to climb the long overhanging walls that Kalynmos was so famous for. My friends had come with goals in mind and I watched their joy or frustration as they suceeded or failed.
climbers at Kalymnos (no idea who!! ) and old monastic ruins
The days were warm and filled with new friendships with the multi national climbers who shared our accommodation and climbing arenas. My own climbing now surprised me, for despite the lack of training, I climbed better than I’d ever had on the steep overhanging walls. Perhaps with no expectations or goals, we just relax? It was wonderful to just enjoy the company and warm rock.
On our days off from climbing, Fred and I hired a moped and took a trip across the island where we set upon an old monastic community. I crawled into a small cell building and sat still. Remains of angelic beings, Saints and Christ could still be made out in the painting on the walls. It was a peaceful place and I we just sat with few words, taking in the vistas and atmosphere. In Kalymnos there were many little chapels were dotted across the island and on the coastline. On another day off I entered one and was struck by the beautiful decor of the walls. I sang a high note and listened as it reverberted around the high dome shaped ceiling. Suddenly I burst into song, remembering Christian tunes from my youth. The sound was amplified in the small space and seemed to circle above in the dome. Beautifully painted angels and cherubs floated amongst the clouds across the ceiling, while a Cross and Christ in a splendid gold colour dominated the far end of the chapel. All too soon, I was leaving the beautifully clear Mediterranean waters and friends that we had made.
A few nights later back home, as I sat up in bed in my attic bedroom, I felt a gentle breath next to my shoulder. How could that be I thought, there is only a brick wall behind me? I felt comforted and no longer alone in my struggle. Was it an angel I wondered, did they really exist?
One week after returning from Kalymnos my divorce papers came through after our seperation several years earlier. I stared at the decree and remembered God. I remembered my marriage oath, “until death do us part, to be faithful in sickness and in health” and I knew that I had sinned against God. I had to go now and get a new life. Later I prayed to God for the first time since I was a teenager. “God help me”, were my words. Now I was in God’s hands.
After my divorce I gave up climbing. The rock was something I had shared with my husband, it had been his life but now I was no longer part of his life. But as time passed, a new Rock came into my life. I remembered the words, ‘God’s Own Rock’ as a description of a crag in Yorkshire. I needed a rock in my life, a solid new foundation, something to build a new home on and God had shown me clearly that it was to be built on His foundation. At times it was a great struggle but soon I understood whom the man in the dream was. It was Christ, it was He who watched me from the beach and it was He who had dropped the thin red line. It was through His blood, His death, that my sins were washed away and I was made as a new creation. I had been given new life in Christ by the grace of God.
I learnt many truths over the years to come, that I had been as dead in sin; that I had been rescued by God; delivered in Christ and given new life in the Spirit; that the enemy who sought to destroy me (the painting) now had no power over me; that God’s angels truly did exist and help was there to ALL who believe in God. I also learnt that there is never a need to be frozen in fear, out of your depth, too tired to fight on, or to feel abandoned. All it takes is one small prayer, “God help me”.
The prophet Daniel thrown into the pit lions and saved by God.
My life since 2008 truly has been a journey of faith, suffering, sorrow, adventure and joy. I miss my old climbing buddies but I am glad that my soul has now been saved. At some point in our lives we all have to make that choice, to be saved or unsaved.
Please check back for more about the GOOD NEWS of Christ’s saving grace.
God Bless : )