The headlines are true. The part of my brain that once told me not to touch fire or try to cuddle a crocodile in the Kimberly is no longer working. Case in point: The Bouldering Fail of 2017.
Late last year I decided to join the real estate game. This little career move required me to venture to Sydney to get my license, which was a fantastic excuse to catch up with some of my friends who still get to hashtag #citylife under their photos. It also meant I got to be away from my kids for one whole week, which meant: SLEEP.
Apparently – child-free city people still have enough time, energy and money to go indoor bouldering on a Monday evening after work so that’s what I did after Day 1 of my course. I’m not going to lie – I was intimidated. However, I was also thrilled to be near rock climbing chalk. I spent many summers rock climbing in North Carolina as a child and I absolutely loved it. I also used to go to a rock gym in my hometown in Florida. (That only lasted a month though, because once you buy the harness, shoes and outfits, you lose interest, right? At least that’s how it was for 12-year-old Summer and most of her hobbies.)
The night before, my friends, Vickers, Davida and I watched a few YouTube videos of bouldering competitions so I took a deep breath to channel my inner Sierra Blair. After gaining confidence on a few beginner runs, I attempted an intermediate one. No success. As I stood back assessing why I couldn’t get to the top, I watched Vickers attempt the run. He couldn’t get to the top either. Dismayed, I did a different intermediate run in an effort to prove that I could scale a wall without a harness or ropes. Success! Feeling high from the exhilarating act of climbing, I felt a burst of energy I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager.
As we were wrapping things up, I decided to attempt the intermediate run I had previously failed one more time. After all, who knew when I’d be back at the rock gym and I really wanted to accomplish it. My hands, although shaky from numerous other runs, gripped the starting off hold and up I went. Through sheer dedication and possibly prayer, I made it to the top. Beyond proud, I started yelling for Vickers and Davida and everyone else in the gym to “LOOK at me!!!!!”
Then I started shaking. My hands were sweating like a Christmas turkey in an oven bag. I couldn’t get down. I literally had no strength or idea how to climb down. Davida started panicking for me and yelled for Vickers to do something. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for a 57 kg woman clinging onto a wall 4.5 meters above you. (Unless you’re Fabio.)
Feeling helpless I executed my only option. I jumped.
And that’s when I broke my ankle, my fibula to be exact. I also did a good job of tearing a few ligaments. While crumpled in a ball, tears pooled on the not-padded-enough mat, while my life flashed before my eyes. Had I just destroyed my chances of ever running again? What did this mean for my new job? What if I can’t drive? Through the use of my pain management tools I learned during childbirth (Lamaze breathing, visualization and teeth gritting,) I managed to find the strength to make eye contact with the enormous crowd gathered around me and was carried out to our car.
I’ve confessed this before – I love attention, but attention for falling from an extreme height for attempting to do something I do not have the physical capacity to do is not the kind I was looking for. I wanted to be applauded for being able to find the strength and courage to put on Spandex post kids and climb up a wall. Luckily, the staff and my buddies were beyond kind and totally gave me credit for getting to the top.
At RPA, the nurse joked that “bouldering and trampolines” are the most popular excuses for ankle injuries. That also made me feel better. After two months of being in a moon boot, getting chauffeured around and racking up quite a debt in the Friend Favour department, I’m healed. However, I can’t stop thinking about why I couldn’t see the dangers of scaling a wall and what could have happened to me. I’m a mother. Not once did I consider an exit strategy. Not once did I think, “but what if you fall and break your neck?”
Some call it optimism, my husband calls it stupidity. (He’s seen me break my nose on a ski jump though…)
The Ski Fail of 2009….
Summer Land is a freelance writer and author of Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did. Get your signed copy here.