Never Fear, Fear

March 31, 2010
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I shoot up out of the blankets, almost hitting my head on the wooden bunk bed above me to the smell of a fire burning. A little disoriented, like I always am when I wake up, I search for the smell and realize it is coming from the bathroom. My left hand reaches forward to push the door open and the light floods my eyes, blinding me for a second. As my vision comes back I find that I am starring at five girls who are blow drying their hair and getting ready for the day.
Turning around, I rub my eyes with my hands and decide to put my tangled, brown hair into a bun and get dressed. I carefully move my way across this cluttered floor, which is full of dirty clothes, wet towels, hairbrushes, and bathing suits. As I side step all of these obstacles I finally end up at my dresser filled with my messy clothes. Taking out a shirt and a pair of jeans I change as quietly as possible while making sure I do not wake anyone up in my cabin. I make my way to the bathroom, dodging the items on the floor, and get ready in there. When I finally finish getting ready, I wait outside for the other twelve girls in my cabin to change their clothes three times, and straighten their hair. After several minutes a few of them trickle out into the cold morning air. Then ten minutes later, the last of my friends slowly make their way out of the cabin. As they join us, we are finally ready to start our journey.
To get to the mountain top we take a trail called Mount Prospect Trail. This path takes us through the evergreen forests of Colorado and up the mountain. On the way up, my cabin members and I talk about the dreams that we had last night, and how we are feeling about this event. As we climb higher up the mountain, our breath becomes shorter. We can feel the altitude pressure pressing down on our lungs as if someone were sitting down on our chest. Eventually, the trail turns into a man-made staircase and we start to ascend up those. Three-fourths of the way up the steps my thighs begin to burn, reminding me of the volleyball bleachers I had to do during summer camp. Finally, we reach the top of the stairs, panting.
Once everyone reaches the top of the staircase we take a little break from climbing and start to joke about how all of us are so out of shape because we can’t even walk up the stairs. Once everyone catches their breath, we continue onward. However, now the trail has become tricky. My cabin members and I have to climb up these steep rocks, finding our own foot holes and our own path up this mountain. The only places that we can hold on to are the rocks, or a wobbly, unsteady, rope that runs up the mountain side.
I start my climb, carefully placing my feet in any slot I can find and using my already sore thigh muscles to hoist me up, while keeping my balance. As I place my foot in a slot I scan the area above it looking for another place to wedge my right foot into. Finding an ‘okay’ spot, and taking my chances, I stick my left foot there. I ease my weight down and slip right off, slamming my knee into a huge rock. After that incident I come to the conclusion that I need to hang on to something. Gripping onto the rope, I cautiously make my way up the trail. Sweat starts trickling down my cheek as I finally make it up these steep rocks and onto the top of the mountain. A wave of accomplishment comes over me, until I remember what I have to do now that I am at the top.
My cabin assembles at the top and we all take in the view of this beautiful morning. The sun was just rising over the mountains across the valley. The mango color of the sky around the sun contrasting with the cloudless sky of blue, is gorgeous, and breath taking, to say the least. Everyone and everything was peaceful for just a moment, until we realize what we have to do in the near future.
The instructors on the mountain top gather my cabin and explain to us a quick overview of what we are going to be doing today. Then we pray for our safety and my cabin members start to file off the mountain, one at a time. Finally, it is my turn. I stand up from the rock I had been sitting on and inch my way forward towards the edge.
By this moment in time, it feels as if a billion butterflies were flying around in my stomach, up my throat and into my mouth. The fear that I am experiencing at this moment is unlike any I have ever felt. My mind is racing through facts; these ropes are able to hold one thousand pounds, my brain reminds me, but knowing this does not matter. All that matters is that my body was built to stay on the ground and that rappelling off this ledge is not natural and therefore, my body does not want me to do it.
Susan, the instructor, starts teaching me how to rappel. “Your right hand is for stopping and going, your left hand is for support” she tells me. Then Susan makes me stand with my back facing off the mountain and says to me, “Once you are ready slide your heels over the edge and put your weight and trust in the harness.”
By this point in time, I am freaking out. I can feel my heart pounding on my chest as fast as a hummingbird flaps its wings. My stomach is doing summersaults trying to remind my brain that this is not a good idea and that I might get hurt. My brain is trying to convince my body to calm down. I start taking deep breathes, as I try to slow down my heart rate. My brain is wrestling with my body, telling it to put my weight into the harness. After standing glued to the platform for a minute, I make a split second decision to lower my weight into the harness.
The harness gradually becomes tighter as I sink my body weight onto it. Slowly, but surely, the harness squeezes my thighs, until finally my life is inn the hands of the harness, and this instructor that I barely know. Now that my weight is fully in the harness, all I have to do is scale down a mountain, it seems easy enough. Although, this sounds like a tough challenge, half of my butterflies have already disappeared into the air. I take a deep breath and start to descend down the mountain. My right hand slowly allows me to lower myself down the mountain. Gradually, I become comfortable with stopping myself and sliding down the mountain. Finally, two-thirds of the way down the mountain my daredevil side comes out. As I take all of the nerves I have left in me, I kick as hard as I can and I swing out away from the cliff and down towards the ground. Then stopping myself, I begin to swing back towards the cliff. Eventually, after repeating this routine I realize that I am starting to have fun, but a quick glance down makes me see that the ground is only one swing away. I kick off for the final time and end up the bottom of the course. As the soles of my shoes touch the ground, I feel this sense of relief and this sense of disappointment that this experience is over.





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