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December 26 2016 at 10:12 PM
Granite (#49) vs Fear of Heights. A conundrum  (Login stever500)

So, I tried Granite 5 months ago and failed. It would have been #49. This is what happened. I went out there, met up with Beartooth Mountain Guides, was told they needed to verify my climbing skills beforehand outside or Red Lodge so the lady I'd be climbing with (it was just me and her on the trip) took me some miles outside of town to a large vertical face rock. 2 guys were already there, I had climbed with the son out at Mount Hood a few years ago and he made it though I didn't on a terrible snowy night (I made it a year later though). Small world. He was with his dad practicing with their guide on the same rock.

She had me walk around to the top and I was supposed to rappel down. I've actually never done this before, thought I'd "wing it" when I was at the mountain itself. I walked to the edge of the cliff, looked down, it looked like it was 70 feet straight down, my car looked tiny. I panicked, and just couldn't go down it. She said to practice on the grassy sloping area instead which of course I could do. Then I tried it again, same thing. I have a terrible fear of heights, a mortal fear, irrational, scary fear of heights. It affected me on other of the 48 state high point trips but I never had to do what she was asking me to do.

She was distressed and so was I. I said I wasted a whole year of training for nothing (getting in physical shape) and would have to fly home the next day, in defeat, as I just couldn't go down this cliff. She said that I could try climbing up it from down below. I did that, made it up all of 10-15 feet and then repelled that measly bit down. I thought I was out of trouble at this point but she said I'd have to go back up to the top and try it again, that nothing would happen, that I HAD to be able to do this to go to Granite. I tried, and tried and tried, but I was too scared to do it. I was so upset at myself.

We made a decision that I could try the trip anyway, possibly, a very expensive camping only trip, but we'd head out there and see what happens.

We walked to Froze to Death Plateau and set up camp. It was 60% chance of snow the next day or 2 but I didn't really know what that meant at this point. The other 2 guys and their guide made it up there and we set up camp, ate, and went to sleep. The next day, there was 90% chance of snow according to info they got. They said that there was pretty much no chance of summiting on day 3 from what the weather was doing. That we'd get to the 2nd camp, and would be stuck in our tents while it snowed, day 3 we wouldn't be able to summit as it's too dangerous in the snow for our skill level and we'd go back down anyway.

Instead, we hiked to the top of Froze to Death Mountain, finally got to see Granite Peak about 2-3 miles away, and came back down and hiked all the way back out since the snow had already started up there.

I thought... WHEW! Now I don't have to do it.

We made it back to the car and I thought... I will never, ever come back to this place. After viewing Granite from afar, it seemed way to scary for a guy like me with a fear of heights so bad, to make it up there. The Southwest Coulier route seems pretty dangerous to me (recently that 19 year old kid died after falling 20-30 feet and others get hurt there from falling rocks). I don't think I would ever try it from that specific route.

I don't know what to do. I want to bag this last peak, but I'm freaking scared to repel down a length of rope that could be 50 feet. Maybe I'll go to Earthtreks climbing gym in the Spring and see if I can do it inside a gym like this. I tried it once before but only made it up 10-12 feet and came right back down. There was no compelling reason to go higher. I got scared.

I'm reading this climbing book now called "Straight to the top and Beyond" by John Amatt. It's given me motivational ideas about at least considering it again but I don't know. Are there some of you that are so afraid of exposure and rappelling that you can't do more than say... 47 or 48 of our high points?

I never thought I could actually do more than 41. Now I'm at 48 with Granite and Denali left (I can't do Denali, at least I know that!). I'm 55 and just don't have it in me but... could I maybe try Granite? I never even made it to the mountain.


Steve (Gaithersburg MD)

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