We all have our inner demons – the things we are afraid of.
My girlie scream at the sight of a sizeable spider in the bath is the stuff of family legend – but nothing scares me more than heights.
I used to listen to Wayne Dyer cassette tapes in the 90’s, suggesting that heights could never leap out of a darkened alley and shout “BOO!” but it didn’t help.
Try as I might (and I haven’t tried very hard) it wasn’t possible to think myself past this fear no matter how many square-jawed motivational speakers might attempt to wash my brains in an auditorium filled with the sound of money parting itself from fools.
They told me.
There was nothing to really be afraid of.
A lifetime of avoidance came to an end last Saturday in the Kielder Forest when one of my partners in 7explorers, Sandy Sanderson, challenged me to face the fear and do it anyway (along with our Oman 2017 guests, there for a weekend of preparation and training).
Given that we will be abseiling and climbing in and out of wadis in the desert next February, there was little point in finding a suitable strained wrist or gammy knee.
So on went the harness and up went Barrow.
Now before you start – it wasn’t far – probably about 30 feet up – wet through and scrabbly with lumps of rock falling down as I pushed myself up from one precarious foothold to another.
Could I have died?
Possibly if a bolt of lightening has suddenly struck me, but unlikely in any other scenario – I was roped up, safety-harnessed in and on the other end of things was Sandy, an experienced and qualified Bear Grylls Academy survival instructor.
Was I scared?
You are damned right I was scared – I respectfully suggest the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.
I was clinging on to that rock face like Bill Moyes to the GDC.
I was hyper-ventilating at the top and on the point of physically freezing solid, unable to move up or down.
What got me through?
the training beforehand
my confidence in Sandy’s experience
the vocal encouragement of the rest of the team
my vanity – not wanting to look a nelly
At the top – Sandy asked me to lean backwards, take my hands off the slope and the rope and let the harness hold me at 45 degrees so that I could then abseil back down.
That was a special moment.
As I gently touched the ground a few minutes later, the predictable expletive was shared with the applauding onlookers then an adrenaline rush quite unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Will I be signing up to join my Island buddy Dr. Sam Nightingale in Yosemite this Fall (sic) – not a bloody chance.
Will I be climbing in Oman – yes for sure.
Will I accept Sandy’s invitation to get some indoor climbing in before we go?
Yeah – I think I will.
Will I still be scared?
Absolutely crapping myself all the way.
Was this all a metaphor for the challenges we all face in our professional and personal lives?
You can be the judge of that.
I’ve done my first rock climb – and I’m just a little bit more confident as a result.