My heart pounds with fear as my guide and I make our final ascent to the top of Water Canyon just outside of Zion.
It’s a challenging 5 mile hike up the mountain, our packs full of gear, the Utah sun relentless.
We drop our packs by the edge of the granite cliff and take in the beauty of this spectacular canyon. The only sound is that of rushing water.
In a few moments we will rappel down a series of seven waterfalls, each rappel a little longer than the last with the final decent being 170 feet to the bottom of the canyon.
Some rappels will take us deep into pitch black slot canyons where the 40° water is chest deep.
We pull on our dry suits and organize our gear: the ropes, tethers, harnesses, and locking carabiners that will allow us to see a world that few have the opportunity to experience.
I am shaking uncontrollably as I step into my harness. My guide gives final instructions on how to control the ropes and tethers. I rappelled one time prior to this- as a fearless confident eight year old.
He says “breathe, relax and enjoy the view.”
“Yeah right” I say to myself.
Standing at the edge of the cliff with my back to a 100 foot vertical drop, my heels hanging over the precipice, water rushing so loud I can barely hear his instruction, he says “time to go- drop over the edge, ease the rope, and lean back in your harness.”
I can’t do it.
I desperately try to cling to the cliff, but the rock below me is inverted, out of reach. I hang there with my feet dangling, helpless and terrified.
Again he says “ease the rope, and lean back in your harness.”
“I can’t do this!!!” I yell, hot tears rolling down my face.
The desire to cling to what is solid and familiar versus letting go and leaning into the unknown is glaringly obvious to me in this moment. This is how I’ve lived my life up to this point and the metaphor is not lost on me.
I exhale deeply and look to my guide for direction.
“What do I do now?” I ask.
“Breathe, relax, ease the rope and lean back in your harness- TRUST YOUR GEAR.”
Those three words… magic words I need to hear: Trust my gear. Trust my Guide. Trust my God. Just trust.
In this moment I understand that I am being held, protected and guided.
I ease my rope, lean back in my harness, and enjoy the view.
-Nancy C. Mansfield