All my life I was an avid hiker and mountaineer, but rock climbing has always scared me. I could never understand what possessed people to climb vertical walls. I was paralyzed by fear just thinking about it.
Then, at the age of 36, I bought shoes, a harness, a few carabiners, a chalk bag, and signed up for a class in technical rock climbing. I learned how to build anchors, to rappell, to belay and to climb.
Once you get off the gound just six feet on a vertical wall, and you look down, it looks far, and it is potentially deadly. You don’t need to go very high to forget all petty thoughts, all worldly problems or issues. You leave the entire “gross domestic product world” behind, and you focus on what really matters – the next foot or handhold.
Before making that reach, letting go with one hand to reach up to the next handhold, switching from four-point contact with the wall to a temporary three-point contact, you think about your harness and whether you remembered to double-back the buckle properly, you can’t remember if you locked the carabiner that ties into the rope. Could it have a hairline crack? You look down and check your figure-eight knot and make sure it’s done right. How old is that rope anyway? How about the anchor? Is it really going to hold if I fall?
Panic sets in. Hands start slipping. Time to make the reach. Go. Reach!
Whew. It worked. Next step.
Your mind is singly focused on nothing but you, your equipment and the wall.
Then I see videos of climbers, like Alex Honnold below, who do incredibly difficult climbs without any protection. When a minor thing goes wrong for a cyclist, he pulls over. When a minor thing goes wrong for a climber…