Monday, July 16, 2012

How I almost died this weekend

So through the Nebraska Adventurer Group (NAG), I signed up for a beginner course of rappelling Saturday morning. I thought it sounded cool and had thoughts of Mission Impossible in my head. After I rented a harness and geared up with my hydration pack and hiking boots, I met up with the other three victims volunteers and we set off to the cliff top to start our training.

Here I am all geared up and ready to jump to my potential death learn to rappel.

We walk over to the edge of the dirt cliff and I'm feeling pretty damn brave until I am about 5 feet from the edge and can see straight down 300 feet. That's when the tunnel vision and nausea started. Now I am not afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling.

Here's a view from the top:

Our instructor tells us that we have to "scramble" down 20 feet to get to the actual cliff. Translation: We have to climb down 20 feet on our own not hooked to any safety equipment and pray we don't break our necks in the process.

Here is the "scramble" down section:

This is when I should have turned around and gone home, but nope, my stubborn pride would not let me. So I "scramble" down the cliff side (quite ungraciously might I add) and make it to the top of the cliff side. I hook on all my ropes and equipment and stand with my back facing the cliff and my toes on the edge. I close my eyes and I can hear the birds and feel the sun beating down on us. I'm already sweating.

I look over at the instructor and wait for him to tell me this is all a practical joke and we can go home now but instead he mutters, "Now lean back on the rope and let go."

Now folks, there comes a point in your life when questions pop into your head such as, "Is my life insurance paid up?" and "Did I feed my fish this morning?" and I couldn't control all the thoughts wondering through my brain.

I take a giant deep breath, secretly hoping I would float away. But instead, I lean back on the rope and let go. I suppose instinct kicked in because I didn't die, instead I slowly let the rope slip through the devices and I started my descent down the cliff.

Here's a shot looking up 20 feet:

The trip down only lasted about 20 minutes and was really quite enjoyable. When we reached the bottom of the 200 foot rope, and we were still dangling 100 feet from the bottom, the instructor says, "Ok, now it's time to change rigging to prepare for ascent."

Ascent - as in climbing back up? Shit - why did I not think that we would have to climb back up the damn rope. I look up and I look down, thinking maybe if I tuck and roll I could land the 100 foot drop safely.

I reluctantly rig up the ascent gear and start to climb with all the upper body strength I have. It's a very slow and tedious process and shreds your arms from the weight. Half way through I am ready to give up. But it dawns on me that there is no quitting when you're suspended from a rope 100 feet from the top. Where could I go? No where but up.

I believe that when you reach a degree of complete desperation that your body starts survival mode. I glance up the cliff and just decide that this fun little "adventure" is now over and I want to take a shower. I use every last ounce of energy I have to finish my climb to the top.

Once I reached the cliff top and was safely sitting on the ground, I thought finally it's over and I can limp back to my truck. BUT NO!

There is still another 20 foot "scramble" to the top. WTF? I'm never leaving my house again!

With the help of the other victims volunteers, I reach the top and fall over gasping for air.

After my body stops shaking, I assess my wounds. A horrible gash on my left hand from rope burn, 4 more blisters on my hands and a variety of scrapes and small punctures from tree branches. I hike back to my truck and climb in with the AC blasting and take a quick "rest".

In hindsight, it was something I can cross off my bucket list, but I do not believe it is something I will do again until I am in better shape and all healed up.

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