I vividly remember the true terror I felt while immersing myself into a place that I thought I wanted to be; and then… reality sets in. Why am I here? Can I do this? Am I going to die or just break my ankles?
Thankfully neither ever happened, what did transpire was an awakening to the fragility of life and the inflation of ego. Some things seem impossible and if you want it bad enough, you will put the work in to attain that level of mastery. Whatever it may be.
I found myself with the skillset, gear, and a person and place that would help me reach the unattainable. As a 23-year-old, this was climbing walls in Zion National Park, UT
On paper it seems simple. Be fit, have the knowledge, the tools, and just go up. That’s what we thought.
No pun intended, but the gravity of the situation turned out to be very real. It’s a whole lot easier to be an armchair mountaineer than a climber. You quickly remember this sentiment when your hanging from circa 1970’s downward driven pitons for an anchor.
Therefore, we tried to push the boundaries of what we could possibly attain. Looking for something bigger than ourselves and hopefully manifest that into our own ambitions.
Even after years of climbing, it will still humble you. It could be irrational fear; it could be fear of actual danger. And you never know how brave you might be on the day you show up. I’ve broken ankles on days when I felt invincible. I’ve also had a climbing partner tell me how the rope was shaking on his end from 100 ft. away. Well…. that was me and my little bird legs shaking like a jackhammer from sheer terror.
But these are the reasons you put yourself in certain circumstances. To feel. To truly feel. Whether it be elation or disgrace. I have yet to find another activity to give me the full gamut of the emotional spectrum. Maybe it’s Shakespearean. Make you laugh an make you cry, either way you escape the mundane.
On that wall in Zion I was missing the simplicity of the mundane. But continued, for fear of losing out on completing a wild goal. So, we just went up, it’s the easiest rule in climbing to remember.
The biggest take-away I get from this “Conquistadors of the Useless” climbing game is to realize the insignificance of your existence and that you’re here to create your own worth. You’re allowed to place value on anything you’d like; and that is what lends importance in any aspect of path.
Did we get to the top? Nope, not that time. But we did get about 600 ft off the ground before it was getting dark and bailed. Amongst the rattling of gear and stiff wind ripping across the face, I learned more than I ever imagined. About me, my climbing partner and most importantly, what it feels like to push your limits.
You can’t dominate Mother Nature, only coexist.