Climbing Down a Giant Cliff (not as bad as I imagined)


A Little Background

Let me start by saying “Hi, my name is Lana and I’m scared of heights”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not really THAT scared of heights — I can climb ladders, I can go up skyscrapers and look out the window, I can even hang out on the roof of a building (assuming there is a nice high parapet between me and long journey to the sidewalk)…. I just, don’t like cliffs or even really steeply sloped hills for that matter. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it has something to do with slippery gravel, falling rocks, and the potential for me to slip, fall and crack my skull open on a bolder while scraping and bruising every part of my body on the way down a mountain. I have a really REALLY active imagination and I can just see these terrible things happening to me when I look over the edge of a cliff. For me, gravity is 10x more powerful than it is for most people, so while most people get 9.8m/s/s I get 98m/s/s. It’s a big difference. So, as far as I am concerned, if I were to slip on a mountain, I would just fall and fall and fall and friction would never stop me, and I would die. I actually feel very similarly about box-jumps — I can just see my toes missing the box, forcing me to scratch up my shins and eventually smash every one of my teeth out on the edge of the box. I can see it, and it doesn’t look fun. For this reason, I typically avoid playing around on cliffs and doing box jumps as much as possible.

Because I’ve lived in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn my whole life, my fear of cliffs and mountainsides hasn’t really been a huge issue for me, it’s generally pretty flat around here. However, I do LOVE camping, hiking, backpacking so on vacations I am occasionally confronted with a cliff, a bolder, or a rockface that scares the living shit out of me. For most of my life, I’ve handled this fear in a totally rational and normal way — clamming up, crying, crossing my arms and walking away pouting, leaving my friends looking at me like “WTF LANA!!!?!?!!!”.Sometimes, this ruins the trip. Sometimes, people accept it and we don’t go near the cliff. Sometimes, I just sit 10 feet away from the edge of the cliff and wait for my friends to get back. It’s embarrassing and I’d like to thank my husband for patiently dealing with this insanity through out the years.

Last weekend

This past weekend, I went to Seattle with my mother-in-law, Debbie, to visit my sister-in-law, Karen, who just moved out west for work (Yes, I went on vacation with my in-laws, without my husband. I know it’s kinda weird). The trip had been going well, only a couple big family arguments so far and at this point we were all on the same page as to “what we wanted to do today”, HIKE! We had done a day in the city eating lots of great paleo foods (::ahem:: beef jerky, crab, and smoked salmon), we did a couple WODs at Karen’s CrossFit box, and we went to the Sol Duk hot springs the day before to unwind. It was GREAT! As usual, the only thing I wanted to do on this trip, was go out to the woods and go hiking. So, Karen set to the guide books and planned us a perfect hike — starting in the woods, going through the rainforest, and ending at the beach. On Sunday, we set out on Karen’s hike — we parked the car, laced up our shoes, and headed into the woods on a 3 mile journey through the preserved forest of an Indian Reservation to the highly acclaimed beaches of Olympic National Park.

The hike out was fun! It was super friggin’ muddy, but it was fun. There were giant moss covered trees, big ferns, wild deer, and these terribly smelly “skunk cabbages” to giggle about along the way. We had a blast and we got sufficiently dirty as we trampled through the 6″ deep gloppy mud in nothing but our barefoot shoes (boots would have been a better decision, but a little mud never hurt anybody. Right?). We saw some people with surf boards pass us and some other people with coolers. Clearly, this beach was going to be awesome when we got there. But would we ever get there? It felt like forever until we would get to the beach, and when we eventually arrived at the big wooden sign welcoming us to Shi Shi Beach, I couldn’t have been more disappointed…

“We made it? What do you mean we made it? Where the hell is the beach?”

I looked through the thick Douglas Furs that clung to the cliff side we were standing on and I could see the blue of the ocean peaking out, waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy down at the bottom of the rock face.

“DOWN THERE?! I NEED TO CLIMB DOWN THERE TO GET TO THE BEACH?! I JUST HIKED SO FAR, AND NOW I NEED TO CLIMB DOWN A CLIF IF I ACTUALLY WANT TO HANG OUT ON THE BEACH!”

Karen looked determined to get to the beach – she was not about to let a little (200 foot drop of slippery sandy rocks of doom(maybe that’s exaggerating)) cliff get in the way of her beautifully planned “hike to the beach”. Debbie looked around for another way to get to the beach because she is “a little old lady” after all and not all that interested in climbing down the cliff if she didn’t have to.  And me? What did I do? Well, I did what I usually do when confronted with a cliff — I clammed up, my eyes welled up with tears, I crossed my arms and I walked away pouting, leaving my family looking at me like “WTF LANA!!!?!?!!!”. I was fully ready to just not climb down– it wouldn’t be hard, I’ve waited at the top of cliffs for my friends dozens of times. Plus, I had already been to Olympic National Park before, and I had already seen beaches like this. I would have been completely happy waiting for Karen and Debbie if they wanted to go ahead without me (not really, I felt like a giant pussy and I was pissed that I just hiked through all that mud for nothing). Just thinking about how disappointed I would have been made the tears well up more and made me more upset that I was such a chicken when faced with a (not really that intimidating) rock face.

Karen and I screamed at each other for a few minutes about what we should do. She thought we “could make it”. I, on the other hand, didn’t think that was a convincing enough argument for me to start climbing down the frayed rope that dangled down the cliff. Obviously, that rope was going to snap, and I was going to die. Plus, even if I didn’t die, HOW THE HELL WOULD WE GET BACK UP!? Eventually I hit rock bottom. I went back to the trail and was ready to just start walking back to the car,. I was praying that Karen and Debbie would follow me and not be upset that we didn’t go to the beach. As I got back to the head of the trail, I decided, “UGH! THIS IS WHY I’M DOING CROSSFIT, ISN’T IT? I’M SUPPOSED TO BE MORE BADASS THAN THIS BY NOW! I’M JUST GOING TO DO IT!”. I walked back over to the cliff. Karen and Debbie looked at me like “well, what are we going to do?” and I said “Fine, I’ll climb down the fucking cliff! But this better be a good fucking beach!” and just started climbing. I was SOOOOO mad. I did NOT want to be doing this. I even stopped at one point to breath and cry, but I kept going.

If the clif climb was a WOD, I would have DESTROYED everyone’s time (even with my crying break) — I was down in a matter of seconds, just waiting at the bottom for the other two to catch up. Needless to say I didn’t die.

The beach was beautiful. It was full of beautiful shells, driftwood, and giant rocky cliffs which I was now mentally and physically prepared to climb ALL OVER!  …which I did 🙂

Now, maybe I will attempt a 20″ box jump later this week 😉

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