Conquering my fear of heights one rock face at a time
My friend Shelley summed it up the best - she said that even though
she was looking at a photo of my shadow on a rock face, she still found
it surreal that I could be up so high. How did I manage to face my fear of heights and embrace rock climbing in just three short years? If you had met me before 2016, you too would be in disbelief.
It hasn’t been easy, but facing my fear of heights has become a mission. Not only because it’s allowed me to see the world from a different perspective, but it’s also taught me that that fear was a manifestation
of my self-imposed limitations. I don’t have to be an exceptional climber to have incredible adventures, I just have to try.
I’m pretty lucky to have friends who are mountain guides, because whenever I go climbing with them, I know that I’m in safe hands. I get
to learn and climb from people whose job it is to safely push you beyond your comfort zone time and time again. Add to that, I wanted to do more adventure photography, so I figured the best way to do it is be out on a rock ledge somewhere - to practise my craft and climbing all at once.
How does it feel when I’m up there, I don’t really notice how high up I am as I’m climbing. It’s only when it takes a bit of time to rappel down that
I realise I must have been a few metres higher than I thought. This time was the longest I had been on a rock ledge, and it took awhile to feel myself relax. In reality, there was nothing to worry about. Guido spent about fifteen minutes triple checking the safety system and the only way
I could hurt myself was possibly stubbing a toe on the rock face (I had taken off my shoes early and he took them down with him). He must have sensed the nervousness in my face because he stopped just before he rappelled down and said, “Lean back and trust the system, if any one of these systems fail, you’re actually anchored to three. Relax and enjoy
the view.” He was right, how lucky was I to spend an afternoon having adventures like these?
Guido climbed a different route to David, and I wasn’t as relaxed when
I was taking his photos. I’ve learned that my fear of heights really is just mind over body, because when I stopped focussing on it, that’s when I began to truly enjoy the experience. It wasn’t adrenalin, no, everything went quiet and all I could hear was the rhythmic clicks of my camera.
I found the sweet spot. I was zen.
I still remember seeing David standing in the little cave across from me. I looked up at the near horizontal overhanging ledge that he was about to climb and my jaw dropped. My eyes traced along the lines of the rope and searched for his next clip. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths - he knew it was going to be hard and would involve a whole lot of crimping. It took him a couple of goes, but he made it over. Watching him rappel down to my ledge, I don’t know who was happier. He for climbing it, or me for being able to capture that moment.
Even though I still can’t say that I’m comfortable rappelling down, it’s getting easier every time. A lot of it comes down to trust and letting go. I’m not there yet, but I know that it’s just a matter of time. What goes through my head each time I find that first foot hole? I tell myself that
this won’t be hard forever, but until that day comes, I’m going to have fun while I bridge that gap.
WANT TO BOOK YOUR OWN ROCK CLIMBING ADVENTURE?
David Zacarias | Email: Srzh08@gmail.com
Guido Mollohuanca | Email: email@example.com
fivefootronna is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and poet currently working and traveling in Peru. A woman with
a curious mind who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that is a combination
of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during the day.