We trudged along on the rock path up the hill located on the north side of Ligonier Camp. There was no wind that afternoon just blazing heat. Groans floated up from our tight packed group as we reached the steep incline on the path. In just a few steps we all began to sweat. I looked up at the sky and saw nothing but the burning sun. Just acknowledging the heat made me feel even hotter. I took a few steps away from the group hoping it would cool me down. Halfway up the hill I began to sprint, in an effort to reach the top quickly and painlessly. I took a few strides and ran…success. I collapsed on the grass as I waited for my tribe to catch up. My tribe consisted of the nine girls that were in my cabin. We were tribe 11, the second oldest girl tribe at camp. I spent the next two weeks with those girls and they were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. We bonded so well that by the end of the term we were practically like sisters. On this particular afternoon we were on our way to the rock climbing tower on the top of the “big hill”. Once the other girls caught up we all took a quick drink from our water bottles and made our way to the tree line where the field meets the forest. We quickly walked to the small clearing where the climbing tower was, thankfully under the shade. I sat down on a fallen tree near the back wall of the tower with the rest of my tribe. I quickly glanced over the familiar wall. The tower was still sixty feet high with four challenging sides. We met our wilderness counselor, Sammi, who debriefed us on the safety issues on the tower. Within ten minutes my friend Claire and I were harnessed and ready to go. We chose the back wall of the tower because it was in the shade and we start our climb at the same time. We both knew this was going to be a particularly easy climb for us, so to challenge ourselves we were going to climb it, blindfolded. Claire and I quickly exchanged a glance at each other and when our eyes met I felt my competitive edge take hold and I knew hers must have too. We both scurried to get our helmets and blindfolds on. I ran and grabbed a small helmet and quickly latched it on. Claire was getting help adjusting hers so I took this second to pick which side of the back wall I wanted to climb. I observed the left side thoroughly. Then I did the same with the right side. Claire just finished clipping her helmet on when I ran to the left side of the wall. I huffed as I looked at my choice. The rocks we spaced apart a little too much and about halfway up they began to get smaller. My counselor, Rachel came over to me and helped tie my purple bandana around my head, covering my eyes completely. She guided me towards the wall and placed my hands on two rocks right above my head. They were cold and rough but I felt strong at the thought that I would be hoisting myself up this wall. Rachel then latched my harness to the belay system and I began to give my required climbing commands as quickly as possible. I waited just a seconds after getting the OK to begin to climb. I still hadn’t heard Claire give her commands yet. I wanted to wait for her so we could start at the same time, but once again my competitive edge wanted to start…now. I stuck my leg out to find a rock to step up on. As soon as I found one my hands shot out to feel around the cold wall for more rocks. I grabbed more and elevated myself upwards. This continued till I began to recognize the shouts of encouragement and direction from below. The noise sounded further and further away as higher and higher I climbed, rock after rock, push after push. Soon my arms began to ache. However I knew I couldn’t be more than halfway up the wall. I could hear Claire climbing higher from the sound of her voice responding to the directions given to her from below. This only made me push myself harder. I shouted down to my friends asking them for directions as to where to put my hands. I felt around the wall above my head. There was nothing. I could feel the frustration welling up inside me as I shouted to the girls below for more direction. There was a rock a bit higher up to my right. I stretched my arm up and felt around. I still couldn’t grab it. The wall didn’t feel so cold anymore. It began to feel hot and I began to sweat. I was physically stuck. There were no rocks around me. Suddenly Allison shouted to me down from below to put my foot where my right hand was. With all the strength I had, I pushed off my left foot and reached for the rock high above my head, while at the same time trying to place my right foot where my right hand once was. As soon I reached I flew backwards off the wall. I hung there on the wire swinging back and forth in my harness. Happy encouragements shouted down from below telling me to not give up. I didn’t respond. I just let myself sweat and desperately reach for any rock I could get my hands on. Each time my hand would slip and I was stuck swinging back and forth in an uncomfortably tight harness, as frustrated as ever. Then I heard cheering from below as Claire was lowered to the ground. She had already reached the top and was on the ground again, joining the others to help me. I let out a sigh and was ready to come down. However, as I swung back to the wall I made one last attempt at grabbing a rock. I got one! I pulled myself upwards as I climbed higher. I had made it passed the hard patch. I climbed higher and higher and soon I heard shouts and excitement from below as I got closer to the top. I made it! I ripped off my bandana and wiped my sweaty hairline. I slapped my hand on the very top of the wall and looked over it at the beautiful view over the hills. They began to lower me back down to the ground. I huffed out sighs of relief and frustration as I sat back in my harness. I was upset that I didn’t win “the race” but still proud of myself that I persevered and didn’t give up. When I reached the ground I got out of my harness and let the blood flow back throughout my legs. I gave Claire a hug and received a lot of congratulations. I put on a smile and thanked everyone for their help but I was sure that my facial expression was not very convincing. My hair was sweaty and my eyes were glazed over in a permanent scowl. I relaxed on the fallen tree and slowly drank from my water bottle. I watched with the others as more girls climbed up the wall. I noticed then that I wasn’t the only one that had trouble with the left side of back wall and that made me feel a bit better. By the end of the day I was in a much better mood. I realized then that if I would have just noticed earlier that I had done a good job, I could have had more fun that day. In the end I was proud of myself. I know now that sometimes in a race your biggest competitor is yourself.
September 1, 2011