Such Great Heights

Saturday morning I took to the trails again, this time up Mt Abraham. It was a really lovely hike on a pleasant, lonely trail…. but I don’t want to talk about how nice it was. How it was centering and invigorating. No.

I want to talk about fear.

The summit of Mt Abe is a balding dome. It’s a bit of a steep scramble, and fairly exposed. It’s not a big deal. It’s really not. But during the final push, using my hiking boots to smear up the rocks, I turned around to take in the view. And immediately regretted it. My stomach tried to hide behind my large intestines and my knees said Nope, nope, nope.

Heights didn’t use to frighten me so much. I never liked sitting on the edges of cliffs or climbing in the rafters of my parents’ garage, but this uneasiness seemed entirely reasonable. The Grand Canyon is, after all, a very tall cliff, and my dad would not have appreciated my falling on his favorite car.

I was also afraid of a lot of things when I was a little one. The dark. The alligator under my bed. Spiders. Clowns. Again, all reasonable things. Most importantly, these are fears I’ve gotten over. I stopped believing in the alligator under my bed. I watched spiders spin their webs until my breathing regulated. I sat in dark rooms until my eyes adjusted, and I could see for myself that no monsters waited for me.

Not so with my fear of heights. In fact, I think it’s getting worse.

I used to be a religious rock climber, hitting the wall several times a week! I scrambled up trees when I was bored! Yet, I feel light headed on an exposed slab of otherwise completely stable rock. (To be honest, even chairlifts have started to freak me out. If I ever ride with the safety bar down, you’ll notice I will keep one arm over the chair to keep myself in place.)

I’m not sure how to work on this, either. Picking up rock climbing again would surely help, but indoor gyms don’t trigger the same panic reaction that outdoor heights illicit.

As with any fear, beating this one will take time and practice. Have you dealt with something like this before? How did you keep it from getting in the way of enjoying the view, so to speak? Let me know in the comments. Maybe it’ll give me an idea as to how to face this fear of mine!


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