I like to rock climb, from time to time. It requires a high level of focus, concentration and dedication. There’s a feeling I get from climbing as high as possible and looking back at where I started, that’s unmatched by anything else. Matt likes to call me fearless; maybe it’s my ‘short person complex’ but I can’t deny the adrenaline rush it gives me. I feel perfectly at ease on the edge of a cliff, feet dangling, heart pounding.
Am I a pro climber? Absolutely not, but you’ll often see me try to climb whenever I can. Having John, Ramsay and Jacob around on our outback road trip was perfect, as they all love to climb too. They are much more experienced, and not afraid to take on a challenge, which pushes me to try new things.
Kings Canyon in Australia’s ‘Red Centre’ presented itself to be the perfect climbing location. Here, vast sandstone landscapes mingle with ancient rock formations and gorges to create a surreal scene like nowhere else in the country. The bee-hive rock formations look like something you’d imagine on Mars… desolate, jagged and covered in red-orange dust.
The Kings Canyon rim walk takes about 4 hours to complete. To get to the canyon rim, you must first walk up 500 stone steps, and continue to climb the uneven paths to the end of the trail. There is little shade and no water refill stations, so it’s recommended to start early in the morning to avoid the outback heat, wear a hat, comfortable shoes and bring lots of water.
The highlight of the walk was finding the Garden of Eden. This permanent waterhole brings abundant life to the area; the lush greenery of which casts a stark contrast against the orange rock formations. To get there, you have to take a sidetrack, and follow the picturesque outback staircase that opens to the large pool in the canyon. During the wet season, there would be plenty of water flowing through, creating a beautiful waterfall in the Garden.
As it was dry season and there was no waterfall, we took the opportunity to climb across and check out as much as possible. Ramsay, Aaron, Jacob, John and I began to climb, while the others rested and placed bets on which one of us would fall into the stagnant pool of water below.
It started off promising as we scaled across, but once on the other side of the water, I couldn’t find a good place to begin my climb. The boys were already ahead, so I picked a spot and just went for it. Once I had climbed a few feet, it was easy to walk along the ridges.
We made it all the way around the Garden of Eden, out of sight from the rest of our group, to the most beautiful lookout. This secret spot lead to another cliff edge, where a large pool of water could be seen below. In wet season, there would be a second waterfall, bringing liquid life to the rest of the canyon floor.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera… climbing is tough enough without having to concentrate or not dropping or scraping it along the side of the canyon wall.
We began to make our way back to the group, when things got rough. I had made it to the spot where I started my climb, but I couldn’t get down. It was too high off the ground for me to jump, and I couldn’t find somewhere to safely put my hands or feet.
I was trapped.
Aaron, Jacob and John had made it safely to the other side, and Ramsay was already taking a different path, too far away for me to catch up.
I sat on this small ledge, and to my surprise, I cried.
Every part of my body was shaking and actually thought: ‘Well this is it, I’m stuck and they’re going to have to leave me. I’ll just live here now’. I mean, completely unrealistic but that’s where I was at. Not good.
I could see them all sat there watching me, and I felt horrible. Of course, everyone was encouraging and shouting advice on how I could move out of it, but it was too late. Never before had this happened to me while climbing, and it was very frustrating. I was frozen.
The boys knew exactly what I was going through and, thankfully, John came to my rescue. He climbed all the way back over and began to guide me down the rock. When I couldn’t find a place for my hands and worried about falling, he climbed up with me and lead us through a safer path to take.
When I finally made it back to the group, I ran to Matt. He caught me in a big hug and I just cried more; partly from embarrassment, but mostly because I was scared.
I didn’t climb anymore for the rest of the day.
I like a challenge as much as the next person, and it won’t stop me from trying again, but it taught me what my limits are. This experience was very grounding, and I’ll certainly be more careful next time.