What have you done if your life that you never, Ever, EVER thought you would do? For me it was climbing the Third Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado. When my husband and I first moved to Colorado as a bright eyed, newly engaged couple we were looking at the Flatirons and he said “will you climb the Third Flatiron with me before we get married?” I enthusiastically agreed thinking in wonderment about what it would be like to be on top of the 1,800 foot rock and immediately started regretting my decision. I am not a rock climber; my husband on the other hand is an extremely talented and experienced rock climber. I am a little scared of heights and I am really scared of having no control over a situation. So, the procrastination began. I successfully procrastinated for nine years. Right past our wedding right up to our ninth wedding anniversary in November of 2013. Then he asked again and I again agreed, but this time we had a day and time set and we were moving forward. We had a friend in town who was willing to go with us and make the climb easier (easier for me because I would never really have to be alone on the rock and I wouldn’t have any real responsibility as far as placing or retrieving equipment) so we made our plans. The week leading up to the climb I was still only about 25% sure I was going to go through with it. I had lots of excuses prepared and was ready to bail at any moment. But, for some reason this time was different. I felt like I needed to prove to myself I could do it. This year has been about proving to myself I could do things I didn’t think I could do. I’ve taken up running and found it to be both challenging and uplifting. I’m doing something I never thought I would like to do and I am enjoying the journey of becoming a runner. I am focusing on taking care of myself, eating better and losing weight (slow and steady, but still losing weight). So, climbing the Third Flatiron was just another step in proving to myself I can do things I didn’t think I could do.
The night before we climbed the Third Flatiron I tossed and turned coming up with a million reasons I couldn’t do it. Was that a sore throat I felt coming on? But, I went through the motions of getting ready and before I knew it I was in the truck on the way. Our drive from Denver to Boulder was uneventful but when the Flatirons came in to sight for the first time I started to panic. How on earth was I going to propel my pudgy little body up 1,000+ feet of rock? This was a disaster waiting to happen! I was still panicking as we got our packs ready and started up the trail to the base of the climb but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and too soon we were there.
It was a beautiful day and a lot of other people had the same idea we did. When we got to the base there was a party heading up and we allowed another party of two to head up in front of us figuring we might take a little longer (with a novice climber like myself as part of the party). Again, too soon, it was our time to start up. Our friend headed up, putting in the gear and setting-up the belay and soon it was my turn to head up. It was completely nerve wracking as I started off – where do I put my feet? I’m supposed to be able to reach how far – I’m only 5’6” (okay 5’5”)? But, I spent a lot of time staring at the rock in front of my and making one move at a time until I had completed my first pitch. I was still nervous as hell but this was the point when I was at the belay station at the top of the first pitch that I knew there was absolutely no turning back. The only was out was up.
I learned a lot as I was waiting at the belay station about how to prepare the rope for the next climb and what different gear did as we were waiting for my husband to meet us. I was also able to look out on the city of Boulder. It was amazing to have that vantage point of the city.
What was so scary became a routine and my nerves settled a little. Our friend headed up put in the gear and set-up up the belay and I headed up behind and then we waited for my husband to get the gear and meet us at the belay station and then we were off again.
Everything was going smoothly and I watched in amazement as people whipped by me free soloing the same route I was roped in for (this is what gave me the most encouragement that I was going to be able to do this – if they could do it without any ropes I could definitely do it with the safety of the ropes) and then it got really freaking cold. The winds picked up and the sun went behind the rock and it was FREEZING! But, again I was reminded that the only way out was up so I continued up to the top. Getting to the top was amazing – until I reached the top of the last pitch I still wasn’t convinced I was going to be able to make it! What a feeling of accomplishment making it to the top of this huge rock that just hours before I had been staring up at in disbelief. I happily took off my climbing shoes and replaced them with my warm socks and shoes and then the reality hit me – I still needed to get down and that’s when my insides really started jumping around again. If I thought I was nervous before it was NOTHING compared to the gripping fear I had now. Getting up here seemed like a piece of cake compared to the idea of getting down. Stupidly, I looked over the edge and where we had to rappel down and thought I was going to die. But, I kept my fear to myself, listening intently as my husband gave me instructions on what to do and then I just convinced myself I knew what I was doing and walked over the cliff and was rappelling down. I just stared at the rock in front of me and slowly lowered myself down. I made the mistake of looking down once and quickly decided I wouldn’t be doing that again. After the first rappel I was tied in for the second and before I knew it I was back on the solid ground. Now I could celebrate!! In the darkening afternoon with snowflakes falling lightly on me I had conquered a fear and fulfilled a promised I had made my husband nine years earlier and it felt amazing.
As I finish this post I hear a little voice coming from the living room asking if I wanted to climbing another Flatiron…