Too Scared Not to Keep Going Forward

After a 12 mile hike, I reached the granite stairs.  The stairs are cut into the side of the mountain, almost a cliff, and are so steep that, looking back, you can only see one or two steps down.  The rest disappear from view - you have to step down one, to see the next. 

I discovered something about myself at this point in the hike: apparently I'm somewhat scared of heights.  Not as bad as my mother (who once had to lie in the back seat of the car, hyperventilating with a blanket over her head, while my then-boyfriend drove her car around a winding mountain road in Whales...a story for another time), but enough that I started getting a bit shaky and panicy...near tears.  I have gone rock climbing before, but that was with a belay system.  Here, there was just me and the mountain.  There was literally nothing but my own balance and sureness of foot between me and a 5,000 foot plummet down the side of a granite wall. 

The view from this high was spectacular.  You could see rolling mountain after mountain, gazing across the top of an entire range, a surreal perspective.  It literally took one's breath away.  The view was truly panoramic, all encumpassing, but the feeling of having nothing but this vastness, this sheer open air all around me, did not ease my dizzyness.  

"I can't do this," I said.  I turned to make my way back down the stairs, but it was like walking down an invisible staircase, hoping that the next step would appear...but not until you shifted your weight and commited yourself to its expected arrival.  Hmmm... At least going up, I could see what was in front of me.  Up was actually easier.  So up I went.  Forget the fact that in the long-run, I was just adding to length of my precarious return trip....never have I ever before been so much in the "now."  It was such a concrete manifestation of all the things we do which are more comfortable in the immediate short-term focus, but make things so much more difficult long-term (e.g.  staying in that relationship because the 'break-up' talk is too difficult, or eating that delicious doughnut and getting back to that diet tomorrow, or going out instead of studying the night before that big exam...you get the idea).  But, at any rate, up I went.  And here that metaphor ends, because I reached the top, and I'm glad I did.  And you know what?  The return trip wasn't that bad (even if I did go down each step on my butt).  I hope to do it again, and, this time, I already know I can.

whimsygirl whimsygirl
22-25, F
2 Responses Jul 4, 2007

I think you are describing the last section - the cables. It is easier going up. What I did to deal with going down was to descend backwards, keeping my hands on the cable, and even belaying myself with a cord and carabiner attached to the cable just in case. Whenever I came to a support post, I would unsnap the carbiner from the cable, move it past the post, reattach to cable and continur climbing on down. In this way, I was able to descend in safety and almost as easily as I ascended. Perhaps easier, because there was no straining against gravity.

Those steps (I call them the Stairway to Heaven, cause they feel like you're either going to climb up or tumble down to it, haha) are one of the scariest things I've ever encountered. They just feel like they are going to pull you off the mountain side. You're right, up is so much easier than down. I had to take it one slow step at a time (and occationally on my but too, haha).<br />
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Funny/scray story about the steps: my mom was taking a break on one of those side areas at the switch back corners and a gust of wind knocked her off her feet! Thankfully she had the good sense to just sit down when she realized she was losing her balance.