On my first Himalayan trek, I received an invaluable tip from the trek leader.
Descending can be tricky if the gradient is steep, or the ground is icy and slippery. It is hard to find one’s footing, and people can either tumble down or resort to crawling on their backs.
On encountering a steep, downward incline, our impulse is to lean away from it out of the fear of slipping. But this only causes our foot to slip further. If our foot were on a banana peel, the more we angled away from it, the likelier it is to slip under our feet.
Our Captain, as we referred to our leader, told us that the trick was to lean into the slope. While that seemed counter intuitive, it does wonders for our traction. Moreover, we retain our sense of balance even as we begin to slip, by continuing to lean in rather than panic and lean away.
On facing a formidable challenge, like a steep icy incline, leaning away will only ensure that we fall down. When the going gets tough and things look like they might not work, it is perhaps the best time to lean into them.