My first attempt at climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome was a failure – I had to retreat in the face of bad weather. Many of you said I did the right thing in turning around, and that the mountain would always be there for a second try. Honestly I wasn’t sure I wanted to. The climber who fell to his death not long after my first retreat still haunted me.
Trying again after failing is easier said than done. “Get back up on that horse” you’ll hear from your friends. “If you wait too long it will get worse.”
When my 19-year-old son Evan said he wanted to do the climb, my first impulse was “no way!” How could I allow my only son to take a risk like that? Then again, if he was old enough to do it himself anyway, perhaps I could be there to make sure he was safe.
So we set out yesterday on the 18-mile hike and succeeded in reaching the summit this time! But it was not without a little insurance. I bought a couple of 8-foot black webbing straps and offset caribiners at REI, so we could clip onto the cable in between each post. (NOTE: the steel cable diameter is slightly less than the width of a quarter. Use a quarter to test the caribiner you buy. Also use gloves that are thin enough so you can operate the clip easily.)
Now I was prepared. If I slipped during the climb or if someone else fell into me, the waist strap would stop my slide. I still felt like I was literally hanging on for dear life, but that clip provided enough peace of mind to enable me to go all the way. On the way down, I was even confident enough to create camaraderie on the cables, giving little pep talks to the other climbers around me. By the way, my son was never afraid, going up or down. Ah, the immortality of youth.
This is the point… experience can be a double-edged sword. It can make you fearful when you have seen just how bad things can be. But learning from other’s experience can also help you achieve more than you’ve ever dreamed. It just took a little online research and discussions with other experienced climbers to help me try again and reach that new level.
The photo above says it all. That’s Evan and I standing on the edge of the top of the world. I was able to draw courage from experience, and it was SO worth it to try again. May you reach the same heights in your lifetime.