|This is how you hammock.|
I just got back from an ice climbing trip in New Hampshire guided by Northeast Mountaineering. Yea, that’s right. Ice. Climbing. Why? Because I figure, if you’re going to try something new you may as well do it big. This is what happens as you get older—if you’re doing this living thing right—a drive to adventure takes over and you find yourself surfing the Internet late at night for special offers from guide companies because your best friend decides she wants to take up rock climbing as her 2015 New Year hobby. When I stumbled across the ice climbing trip glowing in blue light back from my computer monitor it was like a beacon of shiny adventure glittering through the dark of my bedroom calling me to climb and I about dropped the handful of popcorn I was holding—Night Eater since 1982, we all have our quirks. I messaged the link to my best friend with the subject line: We’re doing this. Of course, she was giddy over the idea and I booked the trip the next day. A few weeks later, I brought the trip up to my other girlfriend (who coincidentally has also decided she is a rock climber this year) and she was all in. I may have waited awhile to tell her that we were also staying at the co-ed bunkhouse the guide company offers at their headquarters…maybe just a little longer than that to tell her that the bunkhouse does not have showers… and even longer still to tell her the nearest ones are coin operated fifteen miles up the road—you know…like a car wash. She’s the friend you take overnight camping and she brings two suitcases full of what amounts to the whole back section of REI and wears pretty matching floral pajamas and slippers around the campsite. Three single mommies ice climbing in New Hampshire…this is how you live it—this life thing.
I have never rock climbed. I’ve spent a significant amount of time hiking over rocks, biking over rocks, hiking my bike over rocks…but the roped-in-belay-on kind I have no experience with. I find that when one is hell bent on pushing through one’s comfort zone to try activities that involve phobias like fear of heights while hanging from frozen waterfalls on a rope, it’s best not to think about it until you’re in it. This doesn’t work for everyone, it’s just how I prefer it. I was advised by some that maybe I should get in a basic rock climbing lesson before I headed to the ice. For some reason the idea of actually being prepared for what I was about to put myself through took the fun out of it for me. In hindsight it may have been helpful to have a little groundwork laid learning climbing skills, but there is something really magical embedded in the experience of “your first time”. I was going to have this first-time experience with two of my favorite people, one of which I’ve walked through almost every major life event a woman could go through. Many, many good times…even more trying times. This ice climbing trip meant something to us, a metaphor we didn’t know the depth of until we were hanging off the ice belaying each other.
|The Yo-Yo Mind Fuck on Day 1|
There is, from what I can tell, one fundamental principle in traditional partnered climbing—trust. Trust the rope, trust your belay, trust you are NOT going to fall. All is easier said than done. You can know this logically when you clip onto that rope and start the climb, but to convince your central nervous system of it is an internal battle. There is nothing normal about climbing a chunk of ice…it is weird. Everything about it is. Why, you ask yourself, am I here?! Every movement makes no sense in your brain because your body is anticipating the consequences of not having a firm toe into the ice or a loosely anchored axe from a weak over the arm swing into a divot in the ice above your head. It’s exhausting and exhilarating. And then there’s the rope…do you know how much play those ropes have in them? It’s not like you’re roped in and you feel like you are. When you fall you yo-yo…and that really messes with your head.
Day two of climbing was the day that I profoundly understood what my friends and I were doing in New Hampshire climbing ice together. There are certain moments in life when (hopefully) the lesson is so obvious that it would take emotional disconnect of extreme dysfunction not to get it. In which case, maybe therapy is a good route for you and a little gentler on the nerves. I was feeling pretty good about the climb, getting further than I had gotten before. Getting higher by doing what I do best….not over thinking it and utilizing a healthy dose of disassociation from my body. Focusing on the movement to be made in the moment (Oprah used to talk about that, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t climb ice to have that ah-ha moment…which makes me feel pretty bad ass about my emotional development). Then, it happened…I looked around and my central nervous system screamed, “Gurl…you is HIGH and this is ICE and this is NOT NORMAL!” At which point I heard myself from somewhere disassociated yell to my best friend who was belaying me,”Susan…hold me tighter!”. Susan yelled back at me, “You are NOT going to fall…I will NOT LET YOU FALL! Relax!”. Fear is a funny thing. It’s a Pandora’s Box. Once you break the seal you can’t reseal it, you just have to ride the wave.
|No One’s Got Your Back Like I Do|