Apr 17, 2012

How to jump from high places

Over the last year I've been doing some indoor rock-climbing with my friends. You feel great when you reach the top after a difficult climb. Then you relax, lean back, and your belayer (the person holding your rope on the ground) lowers you slowly to the ground.

But there is one route where you can't do that. This one route has a ledge at the top that's big enough to stand on. So you scramble over the edge triumphantly, stand up, and then realize WHOA, I'm standing at the edge of a 35-foot drop.

I've never thought of myself as scared of heights. I've been on top of mountains, skyscrapers, and the CN Tower's glass floor. But I've never had to jump off any of those.

This is Phillipe and Mel at the top of the wall.

See the ledge? That's where my more daring friends like to have a little "fun." Sometimes when climbers jump off, their belayers give them a lot of slack, so they have a good drop to scare them.

Honestly, the first time I climbed to the ledge I thought it wouldn't be too hard to jump. But at the top everything changed. Breath got shorter, knees got weaker, and when I wanted to leap my legs wouldn't respond.

Luckily there is a way to get off the ledge without jumping, but it's not very elegant. You have to lean out, grab a nearby rafter, and hang your weight off it before being lowered down. It's easier than jumping because you have something to grab onto. That's what I've always done up until last week, when I dared myself to jump.

I wanted to do it, but on the ledge I couldn't move towards the edge. Something inside me was wound up so tight I started to shake and cry. Part of me thought, "I can't do this today. Let's just go down and try again some other time." Part of me thought, "If I don't do this today I'll never stop making excuses."

I stood on the edge of the ledge and put one foot over the edge. With my other foot I let go. You know that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy faces the final test before finding the Grail? This one:

The exact same thing happened. I swung out into space and didn't drop an inch. Solidly suspended. When I opened my eyes I was lowered down to the ground and wiped away all the tears.

Inside of me, a tightly-wound spring released. Next time, I will leap.

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