So I was going to keep this as another private post for
myself, a journal entry. Today was filled with emotions
I've never experienced before. Its really wordy, but I hope
if you read this you could capture the intensity of each
Do you have those moments in life that are memorable… but not for the usual “good times”? Those moments that define the term: “experiencing life to its fullest extent”. I went on a hiking/climbing-ish trip up to a local mountain. This single day has been filled with the most terrifying moments ive experienced in my. I started outdoor excursion along with 11 other people, and left the excursion with no one else besides myself. Every decision and action today was by my own self-choice. Through each event today I’ve learned so much about myself. My capability was put to test, how much I can push myself. Collective experience and knowledge was also put to the test today. Most importantly I knew to keep calm & keep control …Anyways enough with the vagueness here’s what happened today:
I was invited by a friend to hike up to the peak with 13 people to climb and highline. I was the only one who was going to stay for Saturday, while everyone else planned to camp overnight. I drove up the mountain on my own. The drive started off gloomy with thick fog but once I hit 3000ft elevation I drove above the clouds. It was a gorgeous and fun drive through the alpine scenery above the thick clouds in the valley below.
I met up with everyone, I only knew 3 out of the 13 people present. Everyone had 50lb packs ready… I also had a disgustingly large pack filled with trad climbing gear and a static line for TR soloing. We all started at the trailhead and then embarked on a 2mi hike with ~2000ft elevation gain. MIND YOU I am not an endurance person. Every moment of that hike was killer with my super heavy pack on. It took so much mental motivation to push through and keep up with everyone. Once we got to the peak, the weather started to turn for the worst. A deep dark gray cloud started to engulf the entire mountain we were on.
A few hours passed setting up the highline and the weather worsened every minute. Visibility was at 10% and then started to snow. The bright blue sky turned into an unsaturated white sheet. I made the decision to start my rappel down the mountain. I parked my car at the climbers trailhead, which was different the way we came in. I was forced to rappel two pitches in order to get to my car in an orderly time. There are bolted anchors on the rock face… but you dont know if they are accurate or safe. The guidebook I was refereeing to was written decades ago. I spend a while deciding the quickest and safest route… because I was descending by myself.
The rap down route I chose started with the anchors being 20ft down from the ledge… this lead down a slab to the anchors. I had one of the members of the group put me on belay while I down climbed the slab to the anchors. I arrived at the three bolted anchors, the two right bolts were rusted, and the left most 3rd bolt was on a quarter inch hangar with a wrap ring… It was my only choice. Once I started feeding my rope through the anchors I realized that there is no middle marker on my sterling static rope. I didnt want to take the risk of “guessing” where the middle is. So I had to sacrifice a few bailer biners to the anchors to tie myself in and just lower myself on a grigri. (yes, because lowering off directly from the anchors should be a no no… I know).
thats how WHITE the sky is... white out conditions & its raining. if you put your hand out infront of you... it was barley visible
After getting to the end of the first rap, I reached a ledge… as I pulled the rope (with much difficulty, damn you friction) the rope fell and the sheared section wedged itself into a flake. I carry a knife with me at all times when I’m climbing a multi-pitch, so I had to cut a section off of my rope. I huddled myself into a corner between a large flake and the wall, busted out my lighter and attempted to fuse the edge of the rope. It was good enough. Being up there was a different experience and feeling. I usually have a partner with me to confirm safety and mental support. I was on my own this time. My body was shaking, but I didn’t feel nervous or scared. I knew what I was doing and I had triple checked every single thing before I went into action. If anything happened I knew I would be on my own and have no one there to help rescue me. In the event of something happening, I had to rescue myself.
This is the event that caused the sheared section of my rope I had to cut at the 2nd rappel station
I tied a knot a the end of the rappel rope. Even with the length cut, I reached the last ledge by a few feet. From the last rappel station I had to down climb class 4 for the next 50ft. In some sections of the downclimb involved stem moves and chimneys… which was IMPOSSIBLE with my gigantic heavy pack on. So I had to tie my pack in to the rope and lower it, and climbed down thereafter.
I finally reached the base of the face. It started to get dark. I wanted to get down hastily and still keep on the trail. There are no trail markers or cariens on the trail from the base of the mountain. Every direction had a different trail. I remembered reading a section in Freedom of the Hills (climber’s bible!) about getting back to your car. Hiking the whole way down, I kept thought of the direction where my car is. With that in mind I had to make the decision of going this way or that-a-way. All I wanted to do is just get to my car, my ankles and knees started to get so sore from all the weight from my pack. The steep trail didn’t help this pain at all.
Just as it got dark I finally reached my car… I rushed in excitement, once I shut the lid of my trunk I realized I locked my keys in the trunk. DUN DUN DUNNNN. I stood there SO frustrated that I did that to myself, it doesnt help that it was still raining. I checked my phone to see if I could make a call to AAA for roadside service. My phone’s screen read, “NO SERVICE”. fantasticcccc. In my soaking wet down with my gear bearing harness, I walked down the road and tried to find the first (non-sketchy) looking house with their lights on. I approached a cabin with a van parked in the front… knocked on their door and nicely asked if I could use their telephone. The Darwin family was very friendly and let me in to use their phone. I walked backed to my car and waited for the AAA truck to some and save me. I couldn’t stand waiting next to my car so hopeless, so I tried to open my door with the crack in the window that I left. I looked around to see what I can use. I had carabiners and slings on my harness. I found two thin, but strong sticks, by the side of the road. I took one of the long sticks to extend the handle inside the car door. While it was propped halfway open I took the other stick and the sling with a carabiner to catch that handle. After a few tries I actually hooked it, pulled it back and my door opened with my car alarm blaring. I rushed to open the trunk… but apparently when the alarm is triggered the button to open my trunk doesnt work. Thankfully I didnt lock the door in the backseat of the car that connects to the trunk. I tried to feel around for my key. I finally got it. Respectfully, I waited an extra 20 minutes for the AAA truck man to tell him I got it already.
I really didnt want to instantly drive home after all that hoopla. So I went to the local coffee shop to sit down on a comfy sofa and drink a mocha. I sat there sunk into the sofa staring at the decorated wall without blinking. You know that feeling… where your body is so sore and in pain; but when you sit down there is an instant rush of relief makes all the sore body parts feel amazing. I felt so high. Reality felt like a dream. Everything felt so numb after the physical activities and stress I just endured. Sitting there I just accepted the weird high feeling. I drank my mocha and eavesdropped on conversations between people in the coffee shop. I calmed down after a few minutes and decided to continue to drive home.
I didnt expect the weather to get worse, but it did. Visibility was still 10%, maybe even worse. Hiking down in that 10% visibility is a very different experience compared to driving down a curvy mountain road. After driving a mile in that thick fog I started to become terrified. Any mistake of my own or another car could lead to a horrible accident. Ive never felt so on edge like I did. I felt terrified but controlled at the same time. I couldn’t let my stress get in the way of my awareness. After five miles of the same thick fog I couldnt handle it, I had to pull over somewhere. I seriously couldn’t see the turnoffs until they are directly adjacent to me, so I had to trust in the judgement of turnoff signs to guide me to a safe temp parking zone. I sat there still. I felt my body, ive never experienced all these emotions before. So much was going on. My brain was throbbing, I felt like a balloon has been inflated in my temporal lobes of my brain. I measured my heart rate and it was peaking at a high rate of 110bpm. (Normal is between ~60-70 bpm). My heart rate was at 110 even though I was just sitting in my car very still.
*side note* It makes sense that my temporal lobes were throbbing because these lobes are responsible for high-level auditory and visual processing. During stressful events, certain chemicals in the brain are released to combat the situation (know as the “flight or fight” response). Repressed emotions surrounding stress, such as anxiety, worry, excitement and fatigue can increase muscle tension and dilated blood vessels can intensify the severity of migraine. Dilated blood vessles (When blood vessels dilate “vasodialation”, the flow of blood is increased due to a decrease in vascular resistance.)
Anyways, nerd talk over… I succumbed to seek human interaction by just posting on my facebook. I posted how I felt, and it actually helped me feel not alone. After calming down I continued to drive, but I found myself taking every turnout to just gather myself. After an intense hour drive I made it home.
I sat there still in my car, in the garage. I let out a loud scream out of no where. At that moment I released all the stress and tension I built up from the past 12 hours. I calmed down and I thought how every possible stressful situation could make be feel hopeless. Ive never placed myself in these stressful situations before. I could have easily broken down, but I had no choice. I had to remember everything my previous partners taught me, every climbing book ive read, and things ive experienced or seen before. I had to be strong, and be proactive and sane. There was no one there to hype me up, encourage, or tell me what to do. I couldnt break down and freeze up into a statue, giving in to the stress leads to dumb choices. Any dumb choice I made could get me seriously hurt, or lose my life.
Thankfully, Everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t.
All the experiences today made me appreciate… life. Even though its common sense, I saw the importance of keeping stressful situations under control. I now know how I can handle these stressful situations. Stress can easily fluster common sense and good judgement. Its ok to be scared, being scared elevates the importance of the situation at hand. I now know its ok to just stop what im doing (in a safe position). Gather my thoughts, lower my heart rate, calm down and continue to do what I have to do to put myself back into safety.
If I could make a bullet-point list of what i’ve learned/experienced/want to remember when placed in a stressful situation:
- Before you start anything, stop. Put yourself in a safe location.
- Keep calm, and gather your thoughts.
- Analyze the situation & recall everything you have learned or know about what is happening.
- Just go do it, triple check all your actions and make sure that’s the best possible choice.
- Stay aware and optimistic, but never let stress shadow the seriousness of the situation.
- Once your safe, sit/lay down and just chill bro.
Keep Calm & Climb on.