Home' LOTL : Sep 13 Contents It terrified me, which is exactly why I wanted to go.
When I was a kid I was scared of anything that was
fast or high or unpredictable, but as an adult I got tired
of being a benchwarmer. Slowly but surely I began to
take on all the things I imagined I never could do.
BY JENNY BLOCK
One of those things was rock climbing. I
was at Miraval for my 40th birthday. It’s a
luxury resort and spa in Tucson, Arizona.
But it’s also home to an outdoor adventure course
that challenges people to get out of their heads and
into their bodies. So, I shimmied up the telephone
pole and jumped off the platform, traversed the log
and made my way along the tightrope, as directed.
And you know what? I didn’t die. Or even
hurt myself, for that matter. I was secure and
safe, and once I convinced my mind of that, my
body followed suit, and I quickly developed
agility and balance. On the next to last day of
my visit, I signed up for the climbing wall.
Standing at the bottom, I wondered what I
was thinking and why I hadn’t signed up for a
spa treatment instead. But my instructor, Matt
Walker, the author of Adventure in Everything
and the founder of Inner Passage (innerpassage.
net), assured me that I could do it and that he
would be right there with me every step of the
way. So up I went.
When I got stuck, Matt talked me through
it, telling me how to look for hand- or footholds
and how to trust myself. Before I knew it, I ’d
made it to the top, and after I rappelled back
down, Matt suggested I come along on one of
his climbing trips.
“ Real rocks?” I said.
“ Real rocks,” he said.
“ You think I can do it?”
“ I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t.”
So I said yes and a few months later I geared
up, packed my backpack and flew to Palm
Springs, where I spent one night at the fancy
Parker Palm Springs Hotel and giggled as the
austere bellman hoisted my pack over his
The next morning, I met the woman who would
be my climbing partner and we drove out to the
rocks in Joshua Tree National Park. Every mile
left me more and more anxious. I didn’t even like
to hike. What was I thinking? What if I fell? Or
got stuck on the rocks? Or freaked out?
There was no backing out now, so I employed
the one method I knew how to use in these situ-
ations: Fake it until you make it.
As we prepped for our first short climb, Matt
teased me about his gear envy, and I felt great
about coming so well prepared. Matt taught us
how to tie a figure eight knot and run a safety
check. He showed me how to wrap my hands
with tape. That made me feel totally hardcore,
which, it turns out, was exactly what he’d had
Then, suddenly, I was up on the rock and I
was doing it. I was really doing it. I was climb-
ing. It was hard and scary, but I was doing it!
When I got to the top, I cried. Years of the
activities I’d missed out on flashed through my
mind, but I commanded them to stop. They
weren’t going to do me any good up here, and
there was a lot more to conquer.
We set up camp and Matt cooked us dinner
before we headed to our tents for an early lights-
out. Tomorrow was going to be a very big day. I
had trouble sleeping that night—partly because
it was cold, but mostly because I was nervous. I
began to wonder once again what on earth I was
But when the sun came up and the smell
of bacon made its way to my tent, I knew it
was time to do what I had come there for. So
I packed up my daypack and went to join the
gang. It was a nice hike in to our climb, and
when we got there I felt nervous and ready.
My partner and I took turns climbing and
belaying. Each climb was a challenge. Each
climb had its tricky spots. Each climb left me
breathless and, yes, teary-eyed. But each time I
got stuck—mentally or physically, or both—my
trainer was there to talk me through it. And I
did it. I got back to camp that night elated and
We climbed again the next day. With each
climb getting progressively harder, my body and
my brain were growing weary. That afternoon, I
chose not to do the last climb. I had started to
stumble and trip just hiking through the rocks
at the base. Something told me another climb
would be too much. Plus, I wanted to end on a
good note. I still wonder if that was a good idea.
All around me, the scenery was overwhelm-
ing, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
I felt humble and amazed at being able to see
those grand sights and climb those rocks. The
dirty fingernails and bloody knuckles and knees
that got me there seemed like badges of honour.
I am so proud of myself for facing my fears
on that trip. But I think about that last climb
sometimes, and I know I need to go back again.
That might not have been the right day. But I
know that another one will be.
FACING YOUR FEARS, ONE CLIMB AT A TIME.
and I was doing it.
I was really doing it.
I was climbing.
It was hard and scary,
but I was doing it!
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