Lamb’s Knoll Tremors

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45 feet looks more like 4500 feet when you are standing at the top of it.

I was halfway down the slot canyon in Lamb’s Knoll. We had already completed one small rappel, and there was no way to turn back now.

I peered from a tiny crevice. My hips just barely scraping through the narrow slit, I crept towards the edge. I took a deep breath and turned my back to the ledge, readying myself for the descent.

I sat back into my harness, testing it to see if it could take my weight. It felt stable enough; the belt around my waist held me like a comfortable stranger, while the straps around my thighs dug into my flesh with just enough bite so that I knew they would not let me go.

I have never been good with heights. The thought of falling makes my breathing turn heavy, my pulse quicken and my limbs tremble like thin branches in a windstorm. No matter how many times I brave my fear, the phobia never quite leaves me. It simply comes back the next time I ascend a steep hiking trail or stand on top of a ladder.

I took a shuddering gulp of air.

I leaned back once more, at last forcing myself out of the tiny crevice and into the wider canyon. I began to lower down. I reached one foot out behind me to feel the surface of the canyon wall with my toes, fumbling for an edge to support my weight, but the sandstone was worn smooth by thousands of years of erosion.

I crumpled in a sudden panic. My legs would not straighten and my muscles felt feeble and untrustworthy.

As I crouched in the narrow opening, inches away from the steep drop, the sound of my heartbeat pounded too loudly. It felt as though it were echoing through the canyon itself. I closed my eyes, waiting for my pumping blood to calm.

Could I even do this? There was a smaller drop around a different turn. I felt too frightened and weak to go down this drop.

I clenched my teeth hard and abruptly rose to my feet again. Before I could think too much, I thrust myself out of the opening and down into the canyon, using the rope to lower myself until my bright blue sneakers were at the same level as my waist. I began my descent.

I held one arm far behind me, controlling the tension. The thick rope pulled through my hand, heating my palm like fire. My feet moved down the course rock, step by step. I couldn’t look down. Instead, I focused on the tingling sensation in my fingertips and the color of the rock face.

Suddenly, I was at the bottom. I dropped the last few inches to the ground. The warm voices of my friends welcomed me back to the earth, assisting my shaking hands as I worked to unhook my harness from the rope.

“Off rope!” I yelled, and an enormous grin spread across my face.

Shaelyn Barber (Shaelyn.barber@gmail.com)

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