I’ve always been a timid person, sticking with what I felt was safe — with what I was contented and comfortable doing. So as I gazed over the magnificent and vast landscape of Australia’s Blue Mountains, I realized I was far beyond that point already. I’d already pushed myself significantly out of my comfort zone by flying here with thirty-eight people I barely knew.
My heart pounded in my ears as I grabbed a right handed glove which would shield my skin from rope burn. As I moved closer to the cliff edge, where several Full On guides were assisting my fellow People to People delegates, I tried to take deep breaths. Nearly every emotion you could imagine: nervousness, apprehension, uneasiness, and even excitement trembled through my veins. The next thing I knew, I was being called forward. The guide wanted to check my harness. He instructed me to put my hands on my knees as he pulled two straps on my shoulders, tightening the harness until I was nearly stuck in a sitting position.
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I waited silently until he instructed me to move under all the purple ropes to the far right. I nodded, carefully ducking under them while trying not to slip on the wet orange rock.
“Right champ, what’s your name?” the awaiting guide asked.
“Kyrie,” I murmured.
“Andrew,” he smiled.
“This is the rope I’ll have control of,” he explained as he adjusted the clip on the front of my harness, sliding the blue-black rope through the ring. I nodded.
“Nice and easy–spread your feet and lean back.”
We didn’t have to do this; they were asking us to — asking us to attain new levels of personal expansion and self awareness – asking us to trust someone we’d met minutes before — to trust a length of rope and a harness.
With another shaky breath, I leaned back into open air until the rope tightened and pulled my harness taut. I paused and started to descend. As I took tiny steps over the uneven rock, Andrew offered advice and commended me for doing well.
“Text book perfect,” he said.
The mountain we repelled is shaped as the letter P. After descending the ledge, you hang in a sitting position as you lower yourself to the ground 200ft below. Even though I was scared, I knew that I wanted to do this–that I had to do this or I would be disappointed in myself.
The most nerve-racking moment was when only the tips of my shoes touched the rock-face and when I was suspended on the ropes. My cold fingers gripped my rope and harness until they turned white at the knuckles. I loosened them, letting the rope slide through my gloved hand constantly but slowly, lowering me while letting me take in the spectacular and breath-taking sight. The valley below was covered in trees and farmland surrounded by cliffs similar to the one I was repelling.
When I was nearly half way down, my rope started to twist me around in circles and into the other ropes. Nothing is worse than when the delegates waiting for you below are talking; it made me want to look down.
A poster pinned on the wall in the Full On room is still imprinted in my mind: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” And after landing in a small tree and tripping while trying to regain my footing on the jagged, wet rock, I realize that the poster was right. I pushed myself out my comfort zone's boundaries; I conquered myself, and not the mountain.
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