(Our friend Dan Glass shares the outdoors with his wife Heather. Now he shares with us how both of them overcome challenges to remain active and outside. The first part of the story, how they lost weight to better enjoy hiking, is here. Part two, which appears below, is an account of their first time rappelling.)
Recently, Heather and I went rappelling with Sarafina and Ben, two fellow hikers who have a serious interest in climbing and rappelling. The option was there to learn, and with that, we went to Tioga State Forest to experience Sand Run Falls from the bottom and the top.
The trail to the falls was relatively flat. There were a few creeks to cross, but it was rock hopping, and for that, we left the neoprene socks in the car. When we arrived at the falls, we gazed up at them in sheer awe. Jeff Mitchell lists this cascade in Hiking The Endless Mountains as being about 25 feet tall. It was beautiful, and at several times before the clouds covered the sky, we saw a rainbow on the left side.
Getting in there to the amphitheater that houses the falls, we found a rope. Using it to descend (it’s not like we needed to, but it was there), we started the course that Ben would give us to do the rappels. The first part of that course was how to get into the harness and gear. It wasn’t pretty, but we did it. The second part was holding the rope while leaning back to see how much the gear supports us. Surprisingly, it felt very safe very quickly. I moved up the 60-75° incline and leaned back from rocks that were up higher. I walked down these backward. I felt good. So did Heather when it came to be her turn to do this.
From here, we looked for higher rocks to go down. After some deliberation, we went to a double ten foot drop. There was a ledge in between, which made it nice, but it also offered a chance to get out of it if it didn’t work. I went first and sat at the top while Ben patiently and knowledgeably gave guidance and a first rappel to show how it was done. As I took my first step with him slightly below me, I felt good, and before I knew it, I was on the ledge. Then, I went over the ledge and conquered some of my fear of heights by doing the second drop. I was ready to do it again, and I ran up to the top and did it twice more. This made me feel really good. After all, I’m the guy who can’t walk over bridges without fear. I’m the guy who gets scared watching video of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Now, I was the guy going over the edge.
Heather did it too. I’m not sure how interested she was in rappelling before the day began, but as things progressed, she was comfortable and confident, and now my wife was declaring to Sarafina, who had been taking pictures, and Ben that she wanted the big 35 foot drop that Ben was doing earlier. You know, the one with the 15 foot free fall at the bottom. This was the one that had the step-off into what felt like thin air at the top. I was going to try this too, but that first step, which was a doozy, scared me too much, so I opted out.
But that wasn’t it for Heather. For Heather, the option was there. As I waited with the camera on video at the bottom, Ben gave patient directions and went down beside her. The journey starts out slowly, but soon they are moving. Heather makes the first step, and the only way out is down. They keep progressing, and it seems like only seconds before they are at the free fall part, which is where they slide down the Batpoles to arrive safely at the ground to triumphant applause. She has won. She has conquered her fear. She has “done good!”
It’s a long way from that night she decided that juicing was the last resort for her. It’s a long way from being made to feel that some exercise equipment was going to magically change her from something to someone else only to have it start collecting dust a couple of weeks later. Until you’ve seen and felt that desperation that some magic change can make a change, you just don’t get it.
In the end, the answer was what I told her all along: mountain shape. Mountain shape doesn’t mean climbing a mountain. It doesn’t have to mean rappelling down one either, but it does mean going out in the fresh air, in the forest, in the middle of nature, and just doing something you never thought you could do while you feel pure air fill your lungs as you exhale out in the confined nastiness to be something great, whatever that is, for yourself. Prior to this descent, we both hiked up a small waterfall (about 12 feet). She did that well enough that it’s clear she could do Sullivan Run. It’s clear that if she had the gear, she could do parts of Ricketts Glen in the winter. There’s no need to wonder. She’s a tough as nails gal. The options are wide open because when you can do 35 feet, you can do 350 feet. The only difference is a number. If you trust the rope, you’re OK. If you trust yourself, you’re golden. If you know, you don’t believe. You’re definite.
And that’s where my wife is… in that realm where all things are wonderful possibility for opportunity and experience. Even if she didn’t do this, I’d still love her unconditionally, but now I can add her to my list of heroes who inspire me with their ability to kick back against the obstacles and overcome adversity. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why my wife is my hero.