I am not good with exposure. There is a primal fear deep in my subconscious that screams at me to get to somewhere safe even if I am securely attached to an anchor. Looking down and sitting in a harness still convinces my primal instincts that I'm not safe.
A few weeks ago I hiked up to the base of the West Face of Sentinel Rock with Cam, Ryan, and David. Cam and Ryan had been recruited to help change out rusty (and terrifyingly short) bolts up to pitch 5 on the West Face. David and I came along to help clean the route on the first pitch which was covered in moss and dirt.
The anchor at the top of pitch 1 was a hanging belay. Not even one tiny ledge to awkwardly stand on. After having cleaned the pitch for about 2.5 hours, we were tired of standing in our ladders. I waited at the anchor as David got onto the second rope to jug up to the next anchor. I watched him go and sat there trying to convince myself to look around. I was so shaky that I didn't get many good pictures from that day.
I have a vivid memory of the anchor because I spent so much of my heightened awareness from fear staring at it instead of looking down. I was on the anchor with my personal, my grigri, and my top jug. #terrified
I looked to my left and saw the valley floor. I saw the parking lot where our cars were parked. They looked like dots.
I looked down to my right. I saw our stuff spread across the ground covered in dirt from our cleaning project. I looked a little farther right and saw the valley floor over a thousand feet below. You could clearly see the polished granite that is covered by Sentinel Falls every Spring. My body was trembling as I fumbled with my gri. I got onto the next rope with my jugs backed up to follow David up. But the sun was going down. I was cold and afraid.
I bailed. I had to fumble with my gri again to get it back onto the original rope. I cursed at myself for not making the decision to bail sooner so I could have gone straight down. I yelled up at the guys to tell them I was bailing. David followed me down shortly after.
When I touched the ground my legs were still shaking from fright as well as from not standing on a hard surface for 4 hours. I felt happy. I have always loved to look at Sentinel Rock but never imagined I'd get to be up on it.
There was a part of me that kept saying that this is exactly why I'm here. To do scary stuff in an effort to become less afraid of it and be able to do even more things that help me grow.
I feel like we all have strong feelings inside sometimes telling us to quit. That voice that says "yeah, you could spend a long day doing that scary thing...OR you could relax and watch Netflix and eat ice cream while everyone else is off doing cool things." This doesn't even just pertain to outdoor activities. That little voice is your comfort zone trying to convince you to stay in it in every aspect of life!
That voice was speaking to me the entire hike up to the West Face of Sentinel. There were 3 separate parts that were exposed. One wrong move and off the cliff you go (luckily, we were able to fix ropes on two of them for safety). There was one unprotected part where the trail was against a wall and was maybe slightly wider than the length of your foot. The other side was a drop off. At this point my brain was justifying bailing. "They don't need you." "They'll move faster without you." "You got this far, it's good enough." But I kept going, leaning as close to the granite as possible, watching every foot placement.
Coming down from that wall and that trail, I was high on life. I felt like I accomplished so much. Really, I just spent 3 hours cleaning a route and barely made it to the top of pitch 1 (almost decided to bail before the anchors too). But it was an insane experience and I was able to see what I thought were my limits and push them farther than I thought I could for sure.
I'm still afraid of exposure. I recently bailed on an opportunity to rappel all the way down Upper Yosemite Falls. I had a deep feeling that I wanted to spend my day doing something else and ended up having an amazing day at Ribbon Falls instead. You don't always have to push yourself in big ways, but avoiding ever being afraid is the main limiting factor to how free and happy you will feel. Whether that means getting on a scary wall or voicing an opinion you were terrified to show.
Once you do the scary thing it doesn't control you anymore.
Where's your comfort zone?
My name is Brenna. I'm documenting my life in Yosemite National Park and beyond! I aspire to live a healthy life while exploring outdoors and challenging my comfort zones!