|Darrington, my new favorite spot|
It happened slowly. But the big kicker came, ironically, on one of my favorite climbing days of the entire summer. Rappelling off of an awesome route in Darrington, I came to the last rap station, and while chitchatting to my partner - you could say I was a bit distracted - I forgot what I was doing. I’m embarrassed to admit the situation completely, but thank God for my partner’s strong arms (hence the distraction), a huge ledge at the anchors, and my own quick reflexes. Considering the location, angle of the slab, etc. I don’t think anything bad would have really happened but the potential of an accident of my own doing was a scary reality check that I’m only now realizing had sunk deep into my psyche. What I did realize the next time I was out, was that my old foe Fear, who’d taken a break from me for a while, was back.
We have a complicated relationship, Fear and me. Like telling a stubborn teenager to do anything rational, Fear can push me to do the opposite of what it’s trying to convince me to. But, being the kind of person who doesn’t feel its necessary to rock the boat unless it really matters, Fear is most often very good at convincing me to do what it wants. I was happy that I’d had a break from this dysfunctional relationship, and I was peeved it was back. ?!*&%?!
My inner stubborn, foot stomping, huff-puffing, teenage-angst-inspired self finally decided to put my big-girl boots back on and kick it in the shins.
|Looking Fear in the face, 1 granite crystal at a time.|
I never knew falling could be so graceful. Or so explosively loud. And that both could go together and be a good thing. Screaming- I can do that.
The two of us decided to back off the climb after I clipped #6, but not before I took a couple practice falls. Its true! Me! Falling! And this time, I let my terrified self express it's feelings. Vocalizing the fall made it just a smidge less scary. And it actually felt kind of good. It didnt take away the fear entirely, but made it a bit more acceptable.
Lightbulb #1: Scream more often cause it feels good. Piece of cake.
|Guides on rock|
With encouragement from the guys, I was making progress. Until it just ran out. Where did all the features go?! Hardly an edge to hold onto, not much to smear on, I was stuck. I tried going up a couple times and backed down. Looking down at Austin and Eric, I admitted I didn’t think I could do it. The real reality? I could feel Fear trickling in, wrapping its cold, hard fingers around my brain. And squeezing. Until the battle began with my stubbornness sett in.
|Patience is a kind belayer|
Lightbulb #2: Discovering new sensations can be entirely thrilling. Take the time to do it more often.
|Glow of sunrise on Rainier|
Lucky for me the morning was gorgeous. The lower clouds broke up just as I hit Pan Point and I had the most gorgeous views for my hike up. The morning slowly wore on as I warmed up in the shelter and it became clear that the weather would turn that night to the point that climbs were being called off for safety. While shoveling snow (yes, I like shoveling snow – its therapeutic) the clouds began to roll in. I was told I should keep an eye out and be sure to head down before 3pm.
At 3pm, it didn’t look good. Not quite a white out, but bad visibility. And the snowfield had apparently opened up in a few places since I’d walked up that morning. And I was solo. And I'd given away most of my food. And I didn’t have a compass….
So many things running through my brain in an attempt to prove that going down was a terrible idea. Dang you FEAR! Back again, fingers on brain, squeeeeeeezing. And I was scared. Being reassured with a smile and a kiss and a confident “you’ll be fine, follow those people going down and stick with them” helped but didn’t make the lump in my throat subside. As I headed down with a few tears in my eyes, I was reminded how terribly out of my element I felt. Fear, you are cruel.
|Pre-panic in the early hours of the morning|
I moved fast through the rain and the clouds wanting to stay with the party near me but the desire to be down immediately pushed me faster. And then the clouds lifted. Not enough to make the rain stop or reveal the peaks around me, but enough to see the trail below. Before I new it, I was at Pebble Creek, then Pan Point. It was beautiful! Even the marmots were out enjoying the day chomping on drippy, brushy green snacks. And I began to laugh. What was I so afraid of? I had nearly let the Fear take over what had been a wonderful day full of surprises that kept getting better than I’d expected. As I laughed at myself for being so silly with it, I realized, my experience also wouldn’t have been as real without it. The cold wouldn’t have felt so cold, the views once revealed wouldn’t have looked so rugged and beautiful. The time spent with others wouldn’t have seemed so precious and fun. If I hadn’t had Fear as my company, would I have missed out on all these most important experiences?
|No need to fear, even what cant be seen|
Lightbulb #3 Don’t pass over the pleasure of fear. Without it, challenging experiences wouldn’t feel so vibrant or real or inspire the hope to come out, unscathed, on the other side.
My relationship with Fear may be more intimate than it should be – obviously I don’t know it all that well, so perhaps I should take the time to learn and get comfortable with it. And yes, Fear is a four letter word that often elicits the use of other four letter words. But it also is so often related to other so very valuable four letter words that without a little fear wouldn’t be quite so precious; hope, time, love, and cake.