Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why uncertainty is actually a spark

On the MacBeth Couloir Col. Spearhead Traverse, April 2017.


I began executing a phase of my plan. I sifted through my belongings and painstakingly triaged what stays and what would go. Once the decision was made, letting go of objects regardless of their meaning was not so disastrous. In fact, I chose to turn the episode into a celebration and invited 100 friends to participate in my “garage sale” event and in doing so, vulnerably allowed others to contribute positively in my transition.

When you open yourself up to the support of others and they come through, you gain unfailing strength.

Sale & Celebration Event. April 2017


It’s no secret that I’m smitten with rock climbing. In October of 2016, I bought a membership and a lesson at the North Shore Hive bouldering gym. I then got “on the ropes” at a climbing gym. The next logical step was to learn how to lead climb. For those who are unfamiliar with this sport, lead climbing simply means that you attach yourself to the wall (or rock) as you climb rather than being secured to an anchor from the top of the route. It also means that falling from a lead position entails a further trip to the bottom and in some cases hitting the wall (or rock) abruptly in a jarring motion or worse. To mitigate potential injuries, the climber and belayer practice by simulating falls. The instructor signals at unexpected moments to let go of the holds, to let go, to release your grip and consent to letting yourself fall into space violently toward the ground.

When you fully entrust your physical safety to tiny gear and to your belayer being apt and alert, and it works out fine, you gain confidence in your ability to fully trust.

Tying myself in to lead my first climb route. April 2017.


I was so scared. We had just shuffled up a steep narrow passage, still locked in ski-mode and for me it was too much effort too early into the traverse. The wind was pummeling us hard. I was slobbering with each laboured breath and my heart thumped inside my throat. I was the last skier up the crest. I looked around, alarmed by where we were perched then realized I was sliding backwards toward the lip of the drop-off. The tail of my skis breached the edge “ooooh” I yelped, then learched forward frantically. Simon calmly skied toward me. He instructed me to stomp forward, then to stomp-sideslip perpendicular down the ridge alongside his skis. It seemed like we were wedged, the tips butting a rock face and tails nearing that drop-off as we inched our way into a rocky funnel. That’s when he said to take off my skis. We all boot-packed down what I later learned was called the MacBeth Couloir-Col.

The section after this presented a short couloir. “We’re skiing THIS?!” Simon smiled warmly and responded “we ARE skiing this. I believe in you”. He sounded sincere and I accepted his encouragement. This was a turning point for me. Someone believed that I could, and it was enough. For the remainder of the trip I dropped-in to whatever was on route and I smiled whenever I was scared because I knew Simon would look back to check on me.

When someone believes in you, it gives you more than confidence. It changes your perspective.

Simon leading our Spearhead Traverse-in-a-day. April 2017.

Life changes, no mater the extent, hold some level of uncertainty. With the support of others, full trust in the process, assurance in your own ability and the confidence that you’ll survive whatever is ahead – that uncertainty becomes a spark.

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