Onbelay

Elisabeth - Macomb, Illinois
Entered on March 2, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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So there I was, chalk completely worn off my hands, and I’m going to slip any moment to plummet downwards to the stony floor beneath me. My only wish is that I could spare a hand to reach into my chalk bag because my hands are sweaty and slick. My footing isn’t stable enough, though, and I’m not wedged deep enough into this crack to allow myself to fulfill that desire. The thought of falling to my death isn’t exactly comforting.

“Keep going! Come on, Elisabeth, you can do it! Keep inching up; take your time. You can do it.” These calls from my dad snap me back into reality. Glad to be pulled out of my horrific day dream of ending up sprawled on the rocky ground below; I realize that is not going to happen if I fall. In reality I’ll swing back away from the rock face for a moment then swing towards it again, and if I’m at all lucky I could get into a better position to continue my upward journey. I know this because I trust my dad more than anyone with my life in situations such as this, and I try to always have my dad belay me when my family goes climbing. A belayer is the climber’s safety net; the person in charge of the climber’s ropes. He or she always has an eye on the climber and makes sure that the rope goes taut to catch the climber if they fall.

Climbers must have complete trust in their belayers because it is not a job to trust just anyone with. It isn’t the average ‘you can keep my secret’ trust, this reliance has lives depending on it; it means that someone literally can and will catch you if you fall. I believe takes a certain amount of faith to put my life in someone else’s hands, but when somebody has enough trust and faith in me to put their life in my hands it is an honor.

My dad, brother, and I went rock climbing at the Mississippi Palisades and met a group at the site we had chosen. After a full and eventful morning of laughing and climbing together one of the guys from the other group asked me if I would belay him so he could tear down the ropes they had set up. I was shocked. He is with a group of climbers that get together to climb at gyms and have years more experience than I do but he chose me, a little sixteen year old that couldn’t tie a proper knot to save her own life let alone his. Lucky for me the required knots were already tied in the rope, and I had a friend of his hook up my belaying device. For him to be able to trust me after just meeting me and having no real knowledge of how I belay, other than watching me work with my brother, was just amazing and nerve wracking.

I don’t know if I could trust a person I had just met with my life, he was a good climber, though, and I was flattered that he thought I was well enough trained to be anything but a bystander. The fact that someone had that much confidence in me was almost overwhelming. I was flattered that he respected me so much and was excited to prove myself but also nervous because heaven forbid I should make a mistake though I am proud of what I can do. I believe trust is a wonderful gift that allows us to have extraordinary adventures.