life, photography

Abseiling


I hope you enjoyed the entry I shared at The Flat-Footed Adventurer about the day out. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Go on, I’ll wait.

OK, now that you’re back, let me tell you more about that adventure day…

After getting changed (have I already mentioned the water was really cold?), we proceeded to the next activity, which was Abseiling.

If you know me at all, you then probably know I’m terrified of heights. I’m 5’6” which means even sometimes if I’m wearing heels, when I look down at the ground I feel dizzy (slight exaggeration, anyone?). You get the idea.

For me, the worst height-related situations are:

Glass lift – where you can see the ground slowly diminishing in the distance. The London Eye also has the same effect.

Eiffel Tower lift – yes, this is also a lift, but I had such a bad time when I got in it, that it deserves its own mention.

Cabin lift at ski resorts – again, a different type of lift that deserves its own bullet point. Special mention to the cabin between Youla and Arp, in Cormayeur.

Chair lift – seriously, what’s with the lifts? However, I must admit that these don’t freak me out that much, unless they stop for no apparent reason in the middle of, well, nowhere.

Strange shopping/art centres design with a lot of glass/empty space around the escalators.

The balcony my grandparents used to have on their third floor flat – I hated the flimsy looking railing. That’s tiny me with my granddad, whom I miss a lot.

Cliffs – yeah, nope, no worries, I can see the crazy steep drop from here, thanks, I don’t need to put my life at risk by peeking over the edge. This isn’t really a cliff, but it has a similar sort of drop!

Any sort of hole in the ground, be it a crack (or even a ventilation thingy on the pavement!)

So… abseiling.

When they showed us the tower from which we were to descend, I felt my legs go all wobbly. We put on the harnesses and helmets, and set off.

The first stage to climb was an easy one: a couple of flights of stairs. However, at some point, there was a ladder. The instructor had to climb first and then lower a safety rope that we had to hook to ourselves before climbing.

In my day to day life, I never encounter ladders, but I could have told you even then that I wasn’t feeling too comfortable about the whole situation. I made sure I was secure, and started climbing.

Ladder(photo by Loida Delgado)

There were others already at the top. As soon as I reached the top, I grabbed a bar with all my strength, and I pretty much didn’t let go during the whole time we were on the tower roof. The fact that there was just one little rope around the top, serving as railing, didn’t help me much.

Seeing all the preparations to descend made me even more nervous. I told one of my friends that I didn’t know if I would be able to do it, and that I pretty much wanted to cry. However, I stayed there. I wasn’t going to just give up in the first minute of arriving at the top; I would wait at least 5.

I said I didn’t want to go first. Three friends descended before I realised I didn’t want to go last.

If you want a bit more insight into the kind of person I am, read this: so there I was, terrified a gust of wind was going to blow me away from the rooftop. Then it was decided to lower my friend’s camera through the ladder hole by attaching it to a rope. I saw the only other guy at the top with me attaching the camera, trying to get it back into its cover, and before realising, I simply let go of the bar I had been holding all this time, and went to help him out. I saw a camera being in trouble and without a second thought for my own life, I simply rushed to help.

Of course, as soon as the camera was safe and delivered, I did realise my life was at risk and I grab the nearest bar available. When the instructor asked who was going to be next, I asked my friend to let me first and then to please give me a hug as I was really scared…

Not sure if you’ve ever felt fear. Not fear as in this film is a bit scary and I’m going to be nervous tonight at home, but the crippling feeling of terror, and actual paralysing phobia. The moment I was told to step forward, my legs went from wobbly to concrete. I just couldn’t move.

The instructor hooked me to a different safety rope, and told me to approach him, facing him and back to the edge, so he could hook the actual rope that would allow me to descend. He told me I had to take one more step back, and even though I knew the edge was quite far still, I was completely frozen.

I am always up for a new challenge, and I always try to push myself to my limits, but this was way too much. I just couldn’t do it. Both my friend and the instructor assured me that I could and that it was safe, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. I felt like I was going to start crying with fear and I only wanted to curl up in a corner, safe on the ground, of course.

I was finally hooked to all the ropes and devices I had to, and ready to go. I had to take a couple of steps back until half of my feet were on the edge. The chills shooting up my spine were even more terrifying than the actual height. I had to start lowering myself backwards, and pretty much leave myself hanging from the rope. I lowered myself half an inch, and decided I couldn’t do it for the thousandth time, and went back to the standing straight position.

I have to give a massive thanks to the instructor, because during this whole situation he not only helped me a lot, but also made me feel safe and managed to calm me down and made me trust him. I started lowering myself again, and stopped, mid air. I asked him: are you holding me? and before he could reply, I added: of course you are, I know it, I just need to hear you saying it. And he did.

Stepping into the nothing, up in the air, is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make ever. Some of you will think it’s silly, after all, I was hanging from a rope, that I was controlling myself, and from a safety one, that was controlled by the instructor. I know. To me, however, it was sort of a big deal.

thats me(photo by Loida Delgado)

Once I figured out how to work with the rope to lower myself at the speed I wanted, I realised the actual descent was quite easy. The wall wasn’t straight, and had some nooks and shapes, which were unexpected and almost made me lose my mind and just hang in there, but I sort of manage to keep going. At some point, I even posed for a picture.

I have to admit that despite the bad time I had at the top, in the end it was a great experience, and I’m really glad I did it. Not only I faced one of my biggest fears, but I also ended up enjoying doing it.

This experience has also taught me that we need to face our fears in order to defeat them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared of heights, but at least I know I’ve done this, and that has given me perspective.

What are you afraid of? Would you ever face your worst nightmare? Let me know!

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