I remember the very first few times I experienced rappelling. The first time I was probably around 9 and we were up Provo canyon as a family. The rappel’s were short and easy. Even my grandmother went down. I loved it. I wanted to go back as soon as we were done. I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than what I had just done. Much to my frustration, It was probably 3 or 4 years before I would go again. I was, of course, very sure that I was born to conquer the mountain. I was Laura Croft incarnate. I was the toughest chick around. I was the youngest female to ever drop off the side of a mountain (I have always had a very vivid imagination). As I looked over the cliff I had come to conquer, I was… scared. My first experience had been gentle and not intimidating at all. This 100 + foot plunge was an entirely different matter.
Keeping up the appearance of my awesomness, I kept my fears to myself. I knew as soon as I got over the edge I would be fine. It was a proven point in my life that if I just got going in anything I was good. So after a few pictures (that's me rocking the little denim hat 3rd from the left) of me and my sisters (and one of my brothers) being cool and calm on the top of the world, It was my turn to go over the side. Our fearless leader and family friend strapped me in and lead me to the edge. I turned to drop over the rim but he caught the front of my harness in his hand. I was already beyond nervous and just wanted to go but he had other plans. He looked at me and smiled and told me we were going to have a little lesson. Let me tell you about this family friend. He was a former Green Beret. He was a motorcycle highway patrol man in California. He was terrifying me!
I was told to drop my rear end over the edge while planting my feet where they were. Ok fine, that’s how you start. I could do that. Well, he didn't let go of my harness. He had me sit literally in mid air while he bounced me in my harness. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. I wasn’t holding on to anything, I was bouncing away from the rock with a 100 + drop below me. I am pretty sure he was talking but I really didn’t hear what he was saying. I was close to begging to be pulled back when he let me take the rope and start down. It was the best feeling in the world to have control and take those steps that would get me down. As soon as I was going I was fine just like I though I would be. I remembered again how much I loved this. I was once again the toughest chick around.
It wasn’t until years and years later when I was helping my own children prepare to go down their first rappel that I realized what our family friend was trying to teach me. Trust, faith and respect. I was always perfectly safe. He would never have put any of us in any unsafe situation but that was not something I thought about at the time. He was trying to tell me but I wasn't listening. He wanted me to trust the equipment I was using, the people I was with and myself. He was trying to teach me to have faith that what I had been taught would get me down the mountain. Most importantly he was teaching me that I had to respect the mountain. I have never looked at the sport the same way since. It has altered my perspective and I am grateful for that little lesson so many years ago. I very much only go with people I trust with my life and I trust my own skills will carry me to the end. Most importantly I respect the land I am in and I listen to what It has to say. I tell my kids and anyone I go rappelling with that it’s ok to be nervous and even scared, It makes you cautious and aware which makes you safe.
I hope when ever anyone is out exploring and enjoying the amazing world we have been given we remember trust, faith and respect. It’s a good way to stay safe to play another day.