I crossed rappelling down a cliff off my Mondo Beyond list last week. A week later, I still can't believe I did it and that it ever ended up on the list to begin with.
It all started this spring when I went through a phase where I obsessively binge-watched old seasons of the Amazing Race. The contestants are required to do challenges like bungee jumping off bridges and sky diving over Bora Bora, and there's always at least one team with someone who is desperately afraid of heights. The contestant panics while their partner, with varying levels of empathy depending on the relationship, encourages them to go for it. Eventually the contestant is often able to complete the task and they almost always declare that it was worth it.
After watching several seasons, I decided that I needed to overcome my own fear of heights. I made a list of the scary height-related challenges on the show, I decided that rappelling seems like the least scary, followed by zip lining, followed by bungee jumping, followed by the ultimate challenge - sky diving. I don't even like hiking (or seeing other people hike) near the edge of high drop-offs so the thought of rappelling down the side of a cliff is enough to make my heart race and my palms feel sweaty.
But I am committed to overcoming this fear so as we planned our anniversary trip to Moab, I quietly researched canyoneering trips. I picked the trip recommended for beginners that is family-friendly and watched youtube videos of children happily rappelling down Morning Glory Arch. I talked with the owner of the guide company who assured me that it was safe and that although it is unnatural to be hanging over a canyon by a rope, I would love it. I quizzed Andrew and other friends who have experience with this kind of thing. And then, I surprised myself by just doing it. I just did it.
Well, that's not the whole story exactly. I booked the trip and then tried not to think about it until the night before when I could barely sleep and was so overcome by anxiety that I gave myself a painful cold sore. But when it came time to do it, I did, and that is an amazing feeling. The first rappel was just under 100 feet and the second, more exposed rappel was just over 100 feet. The second rappel was much scarier because it was exposed, and there was a moment after I had started when I looked up at the guide and told him, "I don't want to do this anymore." But he said, "well, you're doing it." And I really didn't have a choice except to keep going.
The guide told me that it was good to get out of my comfort zone. Of course, every day of our trip I was outside of my comfort zone riding trails that pushed my abilities, but this was by far the scariest. No big deal though; if you know me, you know that death and danger are my various breads and various butters...