A rare photo of my climb up Steinhauser Mountain.
To Climb A Mountain
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In the early summer of 1966, I had completed the seventh grade. I was 12 years old. I had just spent one entire year of my life, in and out of the hospital, battling a serious bout of rheumatic fever. It was in late June that I was once again allowed to walk.
By late August, a certain anxiety loomed inside of me. For I was about to turn 13, in early September. And, I was about to start the eighth grade. What brought on greater anxiety in the marrow of my being, was the thought that for one full year of my life, I did not step into good old Chapel Hill School. For one full year of my life, I had not seen the old gang.
It was late August and my old friend Stuart and I were walking in the woods at the foothills of the highest point of Hook Mountain. There was a precipice that stood over two stories high. Its jagged rock edges ran straight up and down, practically perfectly perpendicular to the ground it ascended from.
This precipice was known as Steinhauser Mountain, named after Stuart’s family who had lived on the property for many years. Upon reaching the top of this jagged, dangerous precipice, you could see for miles and miles. Historical legend had it that General George Washington, himself, commissioned a tall tower be built upon the surface of this precipice to keep an eye on any invasions of British troops to the area.
I had climbed this jagged rock cliff many times. But this would be the first time, since my recovery from successfully battling rheumatic fever. I was scared. Inside, I shook like a leaf. For when you looked from the ground surface, up to the very top of Steinhauser Mountain, you could see the danger. It was as if an eerie moan called from the rocky cliff, daring any passerby to attempt to climb the ragged rugged precipice.
What made the climb even more dangerous was that the ground surface was covered with huge rocks and boulders. Such that with once slip of your foot or hand, a fall could mean serious injury, maybe even death. This was no joke.
I remember, in that late summer morning, Stuart and I were looking straight up to the top of the high precipice.
My good buddy, Stuart Steinhauser climbing the rocky cliff of Lincoln Park’s famous Steinhauser Mountain.
“Come on, Richie, you can do it,” Stuart said to me with a flexion of challenge in his voice.
“I don’t know Stu, I just don’t know,” I modestly replied.
“Come on Richie, you’ve got to at least try! You can do it! I know you can,” Stuart called out to me with a certain “let’s win one for the Gipper,” attitude in his voice.
Well, long story short. Both Stuart and I began the challenging climb. I was scared out of my skull. One slip, one missed step, one careless error; and it really could mean curtains.
As we ascended our climb, Stuart continued to call out to me, “don’t give up now, Richie! Come on, you can do it!”
There were times when fear nearly overcame me. But I knew deep inside that I had to remain strong and courageous. With intense focus, I found the crevices in the craggy rock to place my foot. There were roots, tree branches and jagged rock to grab hold of. Still, this was no game, and courage was the key to success.
I still remember that immense feeling of accomplishment when I reached the top of Steinhauser Mountain. It was as if I had won the Daytona 500. It was as if I had single handedly knocked out the Joker, without one bit of help from Batman! The old feeling of confidence was once again flowing through my veins.
The view from atop Steinhauser Mountain was breathtaking. From the very top of this high precipice, a person could see for miles and miles! The moment was mine. I had earned it. The joy, the wonder, the splendor, had all been well earned.
That was over 50 years ago, when I conquered my fears and climbed Steinhauser Mountain, shortly after recovering from my long-term battle with rheumatic fever. I often look back at that moment in time. There are times when fear wants to seep into the marrow of my being. There are times when thoughts of self-doubts begin to pop into my head. There are times when I question my talent as a writer. It’s those very times that I look back at my courageous climb up Steinhauser Mountain. It’s then that I dig deep into my heart and realize, courage is the key to crushing fears and self doubts.