Pushing My Fear Limit

So this morning after getting to inbox zero, I decided to go on a walk/hike.  Little did I know I was going to push a personal fear limit right up to the edge and then some.

When I go out walking somewhere, I will frequently chose a point that I want to get to.  If I don’t have to use trails or other traditional walking paths, then I won’t and I’ll go directly for it.  There’s a certain liberty in this method of movement, as though I’m blazing my own trail.  On today’s hike, I decided to go to the top of one of the local hills (mini-mountain for us Minnesotans) that I haven’t been to yet.

On a prior day (yesterday maybe, can’t keep track), Mark and I hiked a few of the other hills, and they actually had trails that made the hiking pretty easy.  Still a workout, but it’s not like there haven’t been tons of people there before.

So I’m hiking up this hill, going through a wash because they’re generally easier, but even this wash turned into a bit of a climb.  On the way up I was humorously thinking to myself, “hrm, how am I going to get down?”  Since I hardly ever follow the same route back that I used to get to somewhere, I wasn’t worried about it.

It didn’t take too long to reach the peak, and walk along the ridge-line to a few other peaks.  After admiring the view for a bit, I decided to head back to camp.  Of course, I chose the most direct route.

When you’re walking along, and the earth ends and you can’t see what’s beyond it, things get interesting.  I didn’t think there were any cliffs on this mountain-thing, but it sure was close to being one!

Standing on the edge, it was certainly steeper than I would have preferred, but I figured I could push myself a little bit and see what I was capable of.  Worst case scenario, I could just head back and pick a different route, right?

So I started heading down with extreme caution.  OK, I’ve got my butt on the ground and I’m using both hands and feet to inch myself forward slowly trying to pick the least-scary path.  I frequently got to points that I could only see the rocks for a few feet ahead because there would be another drop-off that then required re-routing around.  It’s at this point that I’m a bit beyond my natural climbing ability and I’m shoving fear aside to see what I can do.

I’m most of the way down the side of the hill when I get to a point that basically is a real cliff.  I can’t see anything to use as hand or foot-holds, and I’m almost stuck on the side of this thing.  It’s at this point when I realize that I am firmly beyond my climbing ability, I’m not strapped in with safety ropes, I’m not wearing a helmet, there’s nobody around and I have no cell signal that I got right up to my personal fear limit.  If I slip, well, let’s just say it’s going to be really bad.

I literally don’t have the skills, equipment, or knowledge of how to go any further.  That treacherous climb I had going down?  Well, now I get to reverse it, go all the way back up, and pick some other way to get off this mountain.  The only problem is that at this point, my legs are starting to shake because I’ve completely worn them out.  If I don’t get out soon, I’ll increase my risk of having an accident due to fatigue.

I was able to scale back up to the top without incident, thankfully.  I went down the other side of the mountain and plodded my way back to camp.  I’m currently making lunch and not worrying about the calorie count!

I would have loved to have some pictures of me on this side of this thing, but that just didn’t quite happen.  It was hard to get good pictures in general because I couldn’t adjust my photographing position, because I’m on the side of the mountain!

For me, this was a fascinating psychological experience.  I had plenty of time to sit on the edge of the cliff and ponder how to plot my course, what would happen if a rock were to give way, and to simply observe the thoughts in my own head while doing all this climbing, scooting, and sliding.  I’m not sure I have any real life lessons here, it was just an episode in my life that I wanted to document here while it was fresh.

(Last photo courtesy of James Bai, a rainbow that appeared early this morning near camp.)

One thought on “Pushing My Fear Limit”

  1. Well done! Anyone who isn’t fearful of heights is the first person to get hurt. As an experienced rock climber, I am always aware of my fear as well as knowing what I can do to push through said fear on a vertical rock face.

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