Ellen’s older brother dropped us off at the new rock-climbing attraction in our town. Rock climbing has always been popular here since we are surrounded by mountains; however, Ellen and I are amateurs. While I didn’t know much about the sport, I did know we signed up for sport climbing—a safer and cheaper option. This was appealing since we were broke, but I had a concern: I was secretly afraid of heights. My body became frozen while standing on a high diving board two summers ago; I needed to be rescued by the life guard. Only my third cousin on my dad’s side knows about the incident, and I’ve done a terrific job keeping it that way. Ellen and I have been friends since we were in kindergarten. Much taller than me—perhaps that’s why she has no problem with heights. “This is going to be SO cool,” she said as she climbed out of the midnight blue Volvo. “I sure hope so,” I muttered under my breath. “Thanks for the ride! Bye, Dan!” we sang in chorus as we skipped away from the car.
Our guide, Bill, greeted us as we approached what looked like a surf shack. “Welcome, ladies! Are you ready for some fresh air and sweet views?” His smile stretched across his tanned face. “We sure are,” said Ellen as she slammed her driver’s license down on the counter. After we signed a bunch of paperwork that basically let Bill off the hook if something tragic should happen—e.g., one of us plummets off the cliff— Bill led us to the cliff for beginner climbers. “Maybe we should check my harness and climbing rope one more time,” I wondered out loud. I could barely feel the rope with the thick gloves we had to wear. Bill pointed to a bright teal flag, marking the summit. Ellen took the lead, and we started climbing, following the path of the metal loops. I didn’t realize how high I was until I reached around 12 feet. My palms were sweating, and my body froze—AGAIN! I squeezed my eyes shut and took loud, deep breaths. Bill encouraged me from below to find the last ridge I stepped on, but I couldn’t budge. I needed the life guard to save me again—to carry my down which I knew wasn’t an option. Steam began to escape the top of my shirt and sweat droplets formed on my forehead.
“Nothing can happen to you. I’m right here to catch you,” Bill coached as he was climbing up to the ledge a few feet beneath me. “See, I’m right here. Just step here, and I’ll take you back down.” His voice and presence were a relief. I dangled my foot below, Bill assuring my safety with each shaky step. With eyes closed the entire descent, I finally touched ground. Just as I unhooked my rope, Ellen began singing “Woo Hoo!” while waving the teal flag. She made it! I didn’t, and that was A-OKAY. Next time, I’ll make sure we keep our adventures closer to the ground.