Reason #9. Why I care about safety.

Reason #9. Why I care about safety.

Reason #9.  Rock climbing.

I love to lead climb.

In my 20s I spent several months rock climbing the best cliffs in the United States.  For 3 months I lived in a car with several friends, and we travelled to Boulder, CO and Devils Tower, WY.  We ate granola.  And macaroni and cheese.  While studying guidebooks.  Or talking with lanky climbers from all over the world.

Boulder Canyon and Eldorado Canyons were meccas for serious climbers.  As a lead climber, my partner and I started on the bottom and climbed all day, until we summited on a ledge.  Then we rappelled back down, or hiked down.  Every afternoon the thunderstorms terrified us.  Every climb had terrifying sections.  At Devils Tower we did overhanging aid climbs that required swinging traverses.  Just like James Bond on the Eiger in Switzerland.  We learned to mitigate risks.

When moving on vertical rock, you have 4 potential points of contact.  If two feet and one hand are enough, then you can move the other hand.  Climbers learn to distribute weight evenly.  To select resting places.  To control energy exertion.  To keep your hands below your heart to reduce fatigue.  To ignore fear.

After days or weeks, your hands develop callouses.  After many first ascents, your confidence increases.  So you try something harder.

And then you fall.

My most terrifying fall was about 40′ late one afternoon.  I had felt invincible.  Then the crack thinned out.  I could not find any placement.  My legs shook.  I could not climb back down.  And my last piece of protection (climbing hardware) was about 20′ below me.  Because I had felt so confident… I had climbed higher than I should have.

I recall pausing.  There was a choice.  And I chose to fall.  I still recall that instant, some 30+ years later.

So I tumbled 20′ to the climbing hardware, then another 20′ below that, until my partner saved my life.  We were hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.

That instant of choice reminds me that we can choose to be safe, or not.

Just like adults on a job site.  Or adults sorting through career choices.  Or adults considering a risky move.

What are some reasons why you care about safety?

 

 

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