Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Try This Alone

The other day, a group of us went out climbing, and for the first time in my life I "lead" an outdoor route.

After climbing 20 meters up, I got stuck, and spent 20 minutes in the same spot, trembling.

Six of my friends - all of which had their feet firmly planted on solid ground - took turns yelling instructions at me:

"You've got a foot hold for later by your right knee."
"Reach left - I found some good holds there."

"Keep your arms straight - if they're bent you'll get tired faster."

Their constant chatter just made me feel rushed and more nervous than I already was.

The challenge with lead climbing is that there are sections of the route where the consequences of falling are greater (the risk of falling is always a constant, no matter what type of climbing you're doing) but this time, knowing that I was "safe" or "in danger" was mentally punishing especially during the moments of greatest consequence - where taking a fall would feel more the Drop of Doom.

The part where I got stuck was during an important part of the climb where I had to push myself through a long dangerous section while maneuvering around a ledge and challenging my climbing technique, trusting my gear, before I could get to a "safe" place again.

I was having an inner dialogue of
"I can't do this. I just can't do this...."
"But it'll be so satisfying when you do! The triumph is greater if you over come it - don't let this beat you!"

Not a word of a lie, I was quaking. The elements seemed to be punishing me with the scorching sun and whipping wind. My heart was pounding, my limbs shaking.

I finally looked at Laura, my belayer, cousin and friend, and shook my head as if to say "no. i can't do it"

The chorus of voices behind her started up again...but were stopped with a swift "Nope." that escaped my mouth.
They shut up pretty quickly.

And I finally found my voice.

With everyone now quiet I was able to explain to Laura that I was afraid of the distance between where I was and how much rope would be in the line before I could make it to the next safe place.

She told me "Trust your climbing. Don't worry about the rope. If your feet feel good and your hands feel good, you'll climb. You won't fall."

It was as if she spoke my faith into existence.

I did exactly what she said, I got over the fear of a long fall, found places where my feet and fingers felt secure and I just went for it.

I trusted.
I climbed.
And I didn't fall.

I completed the climb, turned around and soaked in the view from the top of the rock face. Staring down at the entire valley with it's mountain peaks, luxurious forest carpeting and teal blue lakes all underneath my feet felt

So scary, so satisfying. So worth the risk.

Climbing is not a solo sport. Though I thought I was alone on the climb, I underestimated the power of Laura's wise encouragement as a companion.

It is in my nature to try to do things on my own, but I'm trying to remember that
"Ailen doesn't have to be an Island"

1 comment:

  1. Sister, I love you. I was amazed when you did this last Sunday. Sometimes trust and risk pay off. Nicely done!