I have a fear of heights. I actually dread huge ferris wheels and viewing decks with glass floors and anything that gives me a bird’s eye view. At the same time, I have an adventurous spirit. A determined one. A spirit that knows that it is mind over matter, most of the time. So abseiling a 30 metre cliff invites two incongruous parts of myself to compete and argue over who is right. Fear of heights vs living the good life through adventure! I love the Blue Mountains with all of my heart and have lived here for almost seven years now but I didn’t feel like I knew the Blue Mountains very well, until last Sunday when I undertook an adventure of a lifetime with High and Wild, Katoomba.
It all started when I booked into High and Wild’s Spectacular Half Day Abseiling Adventure. My baby had just weaned and could be fed and cared for by my husband. I was finally able to do something for myself, so I set the bar high and booked in to do something that I had never attempted before – abseiling. I had skydived, bungee jumped, been hang gliding, canyoning and attempted all sorts of amazing adventures around the world, but never abseiled. This will be easy and fun on a beautiful day in the Blue Mountains, I thought, but never did I think the trip would be so life changing.
Our guides for the day were Bree and Narissa. Two spirited and confident adventurers who have many years of abseiling experience between them. Our group met in the morning and set off together to Narrowneck Peninsula. We were to complete three abseils that morning – a 5 metre practice abseil, a 15 metre and a 30 metre decent. Too easy!
Bree and Narissa taught us everything we needed to know for the day. They made the morning so enjoyable and light hearted that nervousness didn’t have a chance to creep in. The 5 metre wall was our practice site and after a couple of abseils each we all felt confident that we knew the ropes, so to speak!
After that, we walked a little further up the track to our 15 metre abseiling location. What a view – it was amazing to see an ocean of eucalypt trees over the Megalong Valley. What an incredible part of the world we live in! I was relaxed and did not realise that the next abseil required more courage from me. Our guides coached me step by step as I realised that abseiling for a beginner that feared heights required great focus, courage and trust. The 15 metre descent was a battle between knowing in my mind that I was completely safe, with all safety ropes securely attached and feeling vulnerable as my feet found their way down the cliff. The guides encouraged my every step as I navigated my way down and they celebrated with me as I landed safely below. I even went back for seconds on this cliff! I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
Next was the epitome of our abseiling adventure. The 30 metre cliff. By now, our group had bonded over our shared adventure, encouraged one another and developed a true sense of comradeship as we all challenged ourselves in a new and amazing way. We were all living in Australia (as Covid has ceased international travel), we were new to this incredible challenge and were in it together.
As we approached the location of our next abseil, Boar’s Head, overlooking the Megalong Valley, the view was breathtaking. I had never seen the Blue Mountains from this perspective before and gained a new respect for this beautiful part of the world that I call home. It was a panoramic sea of treetops and cliffs, majestic cliff faces and caves to our right. And yes, I was about to abseil down one of those cliff faces. 30 meters. That is a decent cliff for an abseiling newbie and I was terrified. My heart was racing, my mouth was dry, my hands were shaking and I grew incredibly quiet as I watched one person at a time take their turn abseiling down the cliff. I weighed up whether I was going to do this or not. To say I was frozen in fear is an understatement. This descent was a moment of huge character growth for me. I either face my fears and complete the adventure I came here to do or I choose to pass on this one. I had a choice and I was 50-50 with this decision.
I waited until last because I still hadn’t decided if I was doing this abseil or not. As I watched my 14 year old comrade descend out of sight down the cliff, I finally decided to step forward, with every bit of courage I could muster. I told Narissa that I needed her to coach me every step of the way – and she did. Her calm, focussed reassurance gave me all of the confidence needed to step slowly back towards the edge of the cliff. “I’ve got you”, she repeated over and over until I believed her. I decided that the only way I was going to do this was to not look at the view ahead or to look down. It helped a lot to just focus on the rock in front of me and where my feet needed to be. There were so many safety ropes attached to me that it was impossible to fall. It was my mind that wanted to protect me like a warrior and needed convincing that I was safe, and I am proud to say that I succeeded in overcoming my fears.
As I shuffled my feet to stand on the edge of the cliff with my back towards the Megalong Valley, I breathed like a champ. It helped calm me down as I stepped slowly down the edge and continued walking down the cliff for about 8 metres. It was then time to let go of the wall as it disappeared and I lowered myself the rest of the way, like a spider spinning a web. There were a few moments where I managed to open one or both of my eyes to capture the outstanding view that I was immersed in. It was like an out of body experience – something that you cannot describe in words, but that you must experience for yourself to know what I mean. It was one of the most awesome moments of my life. I was doing exactly what I thought I wasn’t going to do and that somehow had found the courage to complete what I had set out to do. As my feet touched solid ground and four of my fellow adventurers celebrated my arrival, I felt ecstatic and relieved. It was surreal.
To this day, I still reflect on my half day High and Wild abseiling adventure and am in awe at how life changing the journey was. It was character building in so many ways. To do something extraordinary that requires an overcoming of fears and raw courage gives you the confidence to realise that you can overcome so many challenges in life when you really believe that ‘You’ve got this’. When you step outside of your comfort zone and partake in such an incredible adventure, what you get out of it is so much more valuable than the cost of the adventure itself.
It is the strengthening of your core belief system that tells you what you can achieve and cope with day to day. It is flexing the muscle that says, you CAN. It is consolidating a belief that you can overcome fear, that you are capable and strong and able to be courageous even when life is hard.
Abseiling is more than a cool adventure in the Blue Mountains. It is part of a life changing journey that makes you realise how awesome and capable you really are. That you can accomplish a goal if you really believe that it is possible. That you can feel the fear and do it anyway. I highly recommend this amazing adventure in Katoomba. You will experience the Blue Mountains in a way that is up close and personal and you’ll fall in love with this incredible place that you call home. Most importantly, you will tap into and bring into the limelight an inner strength that you may have forgotten that you had. Knowing that you have this strength and continuing to use it in your day to day life is what makes this experience so worthwhile. You really have GOT THIS!
By Colinda, Blue Mountains Mums