I press my fingers into the red rock as the whimper in my gut is ripped up through my throat, mixes with my tears’ salt and pours down my face. I push my boot hard against the rock face and scoot my butt a few inches down the opening. Peter tells me to reach up and grab the overhanging edge and slide my foot down and over to a small ledge, then swing my body back around into the crevasse again. The whimper turns into a wail that silently screams through my skull, and I look down to see the ledge. The silent scream turns into a meltdown, and I press my face into the red of the rock and weep. “You can do this”, Peter says to me.
I have come to Sedona to hike, to look at the beauty of the red rock, and like many others, to experience the sacred energies of the vortex sites. Through the Couchsurfing network, I find a place to stay with Peter who runs the Top of Bell Rock Club. He will host anyone who will hike up to the top of Bell Rock and become a member.
Sun warm and shining bright over the middle of the day, the red rock is rich and vibrant against the blue sky. Our group of four climbs up slowly, places our feet onto a small ledge, pulls ourselves up with some fingers wrapped around a protruding edge of rock. I look up the rock face towards our final destination and it starts.
Did I mention my fear of heights? In my mind, we would slowly wind our way up a trodden trail with the occasional boulder climb.
“Move your foot over to the right and put your weight on that small rock lip”, says Peter, “and grab that rock over your head with your right hand. Now reach with your other hand and pull yourself over onto that ledge.” What? I look over to see the ledge, but what I see is the length of the crevasse below me, the same crevasse that I have been inching up and I am petrified. My heart won’t stop pounding as if it will push through my chest and take flight. My mouth, all gummy from breathing in so deeply, glues my lips together so tightly that I’m not sure I can take air in through my mouth anymore. “You’re almost there”, Peter says as he stands just below me so I can’t see the full scope of the crevasse opening. I pull up and swing my foot tentatively over to the too small ledge and slowly bring my full weight to a standing position while holding on with everything I have.
Tears don’t roll down my cheeks, they spray salt droplets onto my glasses, rush over my cheekbones like a waterfall cascade. I don’t know what feels worse– the fear of falling and dying or this display of vulnerability. I stop and tell myself I can do this. I breathe deep through the mucus and place my foot over onto another rock ledge, and follow Peter’s directions, the same directions he’s given to 648 other people before me. I reach up and pull myself onto the flat area that is our destination, then collapse.
On the way up, I could focus on the red rock in front of my face as I leaned into the hill. Coming down, I now have to face forward, the whole view of the curved bulges sweeping down in front of me.
Peter smiles while I attempt to work through my personal challenges. Going up,I somehow kept moving one step at a time. Descending, the tears and terror rip through me, melt me down, paralyze me. “Push your left foot against the rock across the crevasse, your left hand on the rock higher up while you place your right foot over here, and grab there with your right hand. Now, shimmy inch by inch down the crevasse “, Peter says as I move an inch, stop and take a deep breath, then move another inch. There is no time now, just each inch.
We finally reach easier rock and shimmy down on our butts to larger and more level ledges. I look back up the crevasse in disbelief that I actually climbed up it, or down it, at all. My legs start to shake a bit in the emotional aftermath, and I feel that I have endured some ancient vortex initiation ritual.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.