Day 2 - Canyoneering
Today was the day for canyoneering. I’ve never done this before and actually was really nervous to go. I had all these preconceptions of how I would be scrambling up a cliff face and hanging off the side, left alone with only my adrenaline and blind fear to keep me company. As it turned out, that’s not too far from the actuality of the experience…but today was about so much more than just repelling off a rock in the desert.
Again we got up at the crack of dawn..(this was becoming a regular occurrence, and what with my jet lag, lack of sleep and not being a morning person, I was beginning to worry that I’d be burned out by day 3 or seriously grumpy all week.)
We met the guides on the side of the road and whilst waiting for latecomers I contemplated what lay ahead. I was stepping into the unknown, attempting to abseil down 3 separate rock faces with people I hardly new, in a place I’d never been to before. I was scared, really scared. I was putting myself in danger. On purpose. After the last few days, was this worth the risk?
But as it turned out, I was somewhat placated by the 4 x 4 ride down the riverbed to our hike start point. As we swung and swerved in the sand, Sarah (our driver and guide) spoke about how flash floods ripped through the wash beds in winter and how when wet the sand felt like peanut butter to drive on. I felt oddly at home here, speeding over bumps and humps, avoiding well travelled trees and other debris from the snowy mountains. As we passed the abandoned and lifeless wreckages in the wash I wondered what their journey had been like? Had it been brutal and terrifying, knocked them out of shape and tested their very strength and resilience? Had they travelled as far as me to get to this dusty bowl here they now rested? Would my carcass be left somewhere similar, strewn aside by the rapids of my trouble life...no recognisable form, stripped of a soul or ignored, not important enough to be plucked from it’s journey and saved before it was stranded in the dust? You can tell what state of mind I was in, contemplating life and death, meaning and value. I needed to keep myself in the moment, so I focused on Sarahs words, as she spoke about the route to our first hike point.
Fast forward to the top the first decent when after a few moments of absolute denial (and complete wonder at what I was looking at) people started to go over the edge. There was an air of trepidation and a thick smell of fear. As one after the other went over the side we whooped and cheered, giving encouragement and making light of little slips and trips, ignoring falling pebbles and the sweat building up on our brows.
Then it was my turn. I was not cocky. I have an immense respect for landscape of this magnitude and the unknown, but I must admit that I was excited too. When I could see Dan, the instructor, and all the expectant faces of my fellow Legendeers, I became calm and confident. I inched down the rock and felt a wave of pride, actually beginning to enjoy myself. It was only when I reached the half way point did I dare to look to the sides….and much to my horror completely forgot everything that I had been told. My adrenaline kicked in and I began to panic...and then I froze.
Breathe. I caught sight of Sarah below me and heard a voice from above shout 'you're nearly there!'
Breathe...breathe...look at the wall and breathe. Slowly I inched my way down, muscles taught and tired, burning from the pressure of the rope and the situation. Landing on the sand at the bottom of the wall, with Sarah smiling and whispering, ‘good job!’ I felt amazing. Emotion welled up from my stomach, through my chest and behind my eyes. I was on firm ground but realised that the simple act of completing that decent with these people on this day had propelled me farther than I was had expected.
Whilst waiting for the others to descend, I wondered up and down the canyon, touching the rock, exploring the colours, taking pictures and recording voice memos my phone. Something about the canyon prevents me from drawing. Maybe it's the intensity of the action, wanting to participate in it rather than record from outside it. Maybe it's being down inside the rock and feeling claustrophobic. Maybe I just don't want to or am I too scared to, who knows?
After the next two repels, inside the canyon, I was out the other side. They were easier than the first, and I was able to descend quickly and confidently through the immense rock to the bottom without hurting myself, or crying. The whole experience was terrifying, brilliant, and adrenaline fuelled. I sat quietly and exhausted for a moment in the shade and pulled out my sketchbook. I only made one drawing but wrote alongside it, pouring my emotions out and recording every detail of what had occurred. I took a risk by coming out to Utah. I took a risk by putting myself in danger. I took a risk by trusting those I hardly new. Sometimes I need to let go, and trust that those around me will catch me. I have to take the risk to be present, to stay in the moment and trust my body and my mind.
When you are faced with immediate danger, the threat that you might fall to your death if you don't stay in the moment and trust what your doing and those around you is very real. It is difficult to trust that things will be ok when they haven't. It is difficult to trust that you will be ok when you haven't been. It is difficult to have the confidence to take risks and let go. But if you don't, how else will you know you're alive?