Today, life slapped me in the face and said ‘Use your head! That’s the lump that’s three feet above your ass’.

Posted on 09.11.2011

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Remember how I was bitching about feeling weak and being angry about it yesterday? Well, today I overextended myself and life gave me a big STFU.

My boss and I had planned a ‘climbing English’ class a few weeks ago for the class that we split. Today was the day we had chosen to go climbing. I hadn’t really thought about it until this morning, but I realized this morning that I should probably NOT go to the class, since I was too weak to even train on Monday night.

But because I needed the hours, I went. Besides, I’d already promised my boss that I’d drive him to the climbing gym. So I kind of had to go, since I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute. I should really follow some of the doubts and common sense when it comes, instead of ‘pushing through it’, like I mentioned last night.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong, right?

Oh my god, so wrong. So very wrong. Someone could have died today, had we not been in the training area.

The students got a lesson in climbing and being belayed, and then we broke off into pairs. My boss and I had agreed that we wouldn’t climb much, and would spend most of the time on the ground belaying the students. They were all new to climbing. It turns out a few were also afraid of heights.

So somehow, I got paired with a guy that was nearly 30 kilos heavier than me. I’m riding about 60 these days, and he clocked in at about 87. A difference of 30 kilos or half-weight is the greatest you should ever have. I haven’t belayed anyone in a while, but it’s not exactly something you lose or forget to do, so I was feeling confident enough. I’d already climbed once and was feeling ok, at least.

But the guy I was with was new, and afraid of heights. He made it to the top without incident and seemed to be doing ok. But when he was supposed to come down, I’d moved off to the side and was a little far from the wall to keep the rope off of his head, and he was having trouble letting go in order to come down. I was adjusting the rope below, and I said to him ‘just go easy, but you have to trust me’.

I don’t know exactly what happened after that, but I think it was a mix of his ‘leap of faith’ and my being unprepared for his immediate action in the middle of a rope tightening/adjustment. Before I knew what was happening, he was going down fast, I was being pulled towards the wall and lifted up, and the rope was burning my hands as I tried to secure it. Thankfully, I caught it in time to safely land him, but not before scaring the hell out of him and peeling the skin off of my hands.

Oh my god, it burns. It still burns, and I have burn cream on. I was so shaken and upset over what happened, and it was no doubt a terrible first experience for him. I spent the next three hours apologizing, and thankfully he knew it was a mistake and not something that usually happens. He was totally over it and continued to climb through the entire class, which makes me feel better. I can’t believe that it happened, and I am so upset and embarrassed by the incident. I’m just thankful he didn’t let it phase him, and no one really gave me stress about it since it was a pretty typical mistake.

I spent the rest of the lesson NOT climbing, since my hands had rope burns, and helping everyone with their knots and giving more information about climbing, chalk, shoes, etc.

I just can’t believe it happened, I can’t believe how close we came to someone being hurt, and how stupid I was. Everyone kept asking me if my hands were ok. Honestly, they’re really not. But I’m ok with them not being ok, because it’s a reminder to me that I made a really dangerous mistake. So if I have to pay for that with some discomfort for the next week, I’m ok with that and I deserve it.

I learned some important things today from this experience that I want to share:
1. I am not (no one is) infallible.
I’d come to a point where I’d forgotten that bad things can happen at the climbing gym, since they rarely ever do, and when they do happen, they’re usually self-inflicted injuries. I’ve never considered myself to be perfect, but I wasn’t thinking about the dangers involved in climbing and that was stupid of me. I need to be more careful in these aspects of my life that feel like ‘old news’. And I certainly need to climb more.

All I could think as I was down in the bathroom running my hands under cold water was ‘thank god that wasn’t René’. Not that it was any less terrible, being someone else. But you know what I mean. I’ve belayed plenty of people who were bigger and heavier than me, but they all knew what they were doing. I haven’t worked with a beginner in a long time, since I was the beginner. And I didn’t think about that today like I should have.

2. I need to stop overestimating myself.
In the same way that I shouldn’t push myself to train when I’m feeling tired, I need to not do things when I’m feeling weak. I don’t think my arm weakness had anything to do with it today, but I wasn’t feeling 100% sure of myself when I walked into the gym, and I should have taken that as a sign.

3. I need to listen to my body more than I have been. 
I KNEW this morning that I should call out of the class, and I didn’t. And I compounded the risk by standing on the ground as the safety for someone else. That was majorly irresponsible of me. If we had been on the ground floor and he had been higher up, he could have died. I can’t make mistakes like that anymore. I can’t believe I made it today, and I won’t make it again.

Lesson learned. I am so thankful that no one was hurt today. I won’t beat myself up about it, but I feel terrible for making such a stupid mistake.

Posted in: life, teaching