I woke up yesterday morning with a mixture of nervousness and excitement fighting within me. I was going to climb a 100-foot fire tower.
When I set up the climb with the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, they told me not to worry if I can’t make it to the top. I shouldn’t be ashamed because not everyone can do it.
That made me more nervous. What if I couldn’t do it? I was more nervous about not being able to do it than the climb itself.
Arriving at the site was a bit of a struggle. I don’t have a 4×4 and driving those oil roads were a feat in themselves.
I received a brief orientation, was harnessed up, and clipped onto a metal cable. A clip the size of my fist and a cage surrounding the ladder were the only things stopping me from falling to my death.
I looked up ready to take my first step. My mind was filled with tips from orientation: take one step at a time, always have three points of contact, alternate between left and right, and most importantly, don’t be afraid of not going all the way.
I just told myself – okay I said it aloud – “Let’s do this!”
A little bit about the ladder: It is 100 ft straight up. It is surrounded by a metal cage. It is the only way to and from the lookout booth.
About 40 feet up, I’m at the tree line. It is my first real view of my surroundings. The first thing I notice is how tired my hands are. I have been gripping those ladder rails hard and my grip is going numb.
At 50 feet, I do the one thing I was told not to do: I look down. Thank goodness I am not afraid of heights. When I looked down, I smiled. Look how far I got. Then I look up. Oh god. I have so far to go.
At 80 feet, I am done. I can’t go on. My hands, my arms. I won’t be able to make it. But I made it that far. And there’s no way I’ll be able to climb down right away so I pushed myself 10 feet farther. As the hatch opened, I stumbled on the floor of the booth.
My arms were like noodles. My hands were forming into claws. My throat was dry. However, the best thing is I MADE IT.
I felt, literally and figuratively, on top of the world. So my advice: do those things that push you. As Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Maybe I should start this saying: “never let the fear of failure keep you from climbing the tower.”
Watch for my article in the Whitecourt Press out on Tuesday