UntitledDecember 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)
|January 2 2017, 8:22 PM |
Steve, I've known you since we did Frissell So. Slope together a few years back and you told me then of your fear of heights. I've been totally amazed at your fortitude to continue climbing, knowing full well that you would have to face some exposure on the bigger peaks but you persevered. In your post you mentioned being '55 and not having it in you' and to that I would say, age isn't necessarily a factor. I'm 70 and some of my friends are in their 80's and they rock climb like there is no tomorrow; so don't let that be an excuse. There are coaches and even hypnotists that can address your fear of heights and help you overcome that anxiety. Learn to face your fears, work through them. It'll make you even stronger than you already are. The SW Coulior was easy for me but I might have been there with just the right conditions. The exposure wasn't much more difficult than Borah, Boundary or Katahdin. The accidents of 2016 were unfortunate and some guides are hesitant to take clients on that route since sometimes crowded conditions and rockfall and loose scree can make for hazardous conditions. However, I'm sure people will continue to attempt that route. Talk with a few guide services and see how they feel about it. Denali of course, has it's own set of conditions, but you could certainly still consider it with some more training. You're not that old yet:)
|January 3 2017, 12:03 AM |
Maybe I will consider it then... I never talked with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides about this, only Beartooth. It wouldn't hurt to talk this through with others in the off season like the winter.
I guess I could go to Earthtreks Climbing Center as well in the spring and consider this again:
I panicked the first time there and simply gave up since there was no compelling reason in my head to go up higher than about 10-12 feet. I came right back down, totally freaked by the height in this indoor gym.
I have bad knees now, had surgery on both and it didn't work. The fixed the meniscus tear, but still had pain after. Arthritic pain. They said I need a knee replacement but I'm not ready for that yet. I'd rather hike and live in pain than deal with that. For now at least. I can bare the pain. Since I never even made it to the mountain itself, I didn't really give it a fair shot, either. If I get to the mountain and THEN decide to turn back 1/4 or 1/2 the way up or 3/4 the way up, then I at least would feel more comfortable with the whole "quitting at 48 thing".
I'm not a great quitter though. I'm ridiculously competitive in most ever aspect of my life. I think about Granite Peak every day. Maybe I should try it again with a group of people instead of just me and the guide. It's a lot easier to turn around if it's just me and a guide. Also, it was a 5' 3" woman guide last summer which for some reason made it easier to not go on. But if it's small group of 1-3 others, there's peer pressure. I'm someone that needs pressure put on me to do these scary things. I never would have kept going up Gannett if it was just me and a guide I don't think. Instead, it was a group of 4 of us. I didn't want to fail in front of the 3 others in my group of highpointers (peak baggers).
Stuff to think about. I really appreciate your words and thoughts.
|January 9 2017, 4:09 AM |
Hi Steve. First of all, it's not a "fear of heights". It's a rational and strong sense of self-preservation. Who in their right mind would willingly and recreationally put themselves in a position where a fall would end their life? duh. Climbers are insane.
That said, falls on major routes with proper precautions in good conditions don't happen very often. It's as safe as driving.
I'm very afraid of heights. I won't go into details, but i had one real freak out moment, and since then, every climb with any exposure has been uncomfortable. I would suggest you reconsider SW Couloir. Under proper conditions and with very well-reserarched and meticulous routefinding, it's not that bad. Helmet for sure. Keeping your group very tight so that any loose rock can't travel far before hitting someone. But it sounds to me like that's the way to go for you. The exposure is minimal and there is no rappelling. Rockfall danger can be minimized, and after being up there, wuss that i am, i think that falling danger isn't that high as long as you're on route. I didn't take notes or have gps info, but i'd be happy to tell you what i can.
And if you don't go, no big deal. It's all a silly made-up construct anyway. Now that i've done Gannett and Granite, what i think about most with them is that i'd like to go just hang out at Titcomb Basin again. It doesn't even matter if make the summit.
Thanks Markv - I will try to find someone that can guide the SW Coulier
|January 10 2017, 12:47 AM |
route (maybe). Less exposure and no rapelling sounds REALLY better to me. And as you said, if I never make it back there, such is life. I'll think about it some more and research it again.
Re: Thanks Markv - I will try to find someone that can guide the SW Coulier
|January 10 2017, 5:30 AM |
So much has to do with conditions. If you can build in extra days, it helps, although that's hard to do with a guide who needs a schedule. The ideal thing would be to plan a 10 day vacation in the area, and then when you get there assess when your best 2-day weather window is within those 10 days.
Most of what made the route scary for me was that it had fresh and melting snow on it, making the rock slick. I wouldn't do that again, there or anywhere.
So apparently no guides do the SW Coulier route. I'd have to find a friend or
|January 13 2017, 10:48 PM |
just get up the guts to learn how to rock climb and rappel and go for it. Or maybe, just give up on the idea. Will have to ponder this one for the next year or 2! It's such a hard thing for me to decide, plus, my knees seem to be getting worse each year. It doesn't much motivate me much when I'm in pain every day.