Watching the conquering of fear

Andre and I use to work together but we hadn't seen each other for awhile. So it was over an impromptu catchup and beer awhile ago, that I had a thought. 

" Ive just had a great idea" I may have slurred. "What are you doing in the morning? Lets go climbing!"

I had taken Andre out climbing 12 months prior and although he is terrified of heights, he battled his way through it and really enjoyed the day.

It was decided I would pick him up at 8 and we would drive out to Leura to attempt a climb called Sweet Dreams. Situated near Sublime point lookout, the climb is 5 pitches and 177 mtrs in length. Although not a very difficult climb it is very exposed and can give even experienced climbers the butterflies.

We pulled into the Sublime point car park and started to get sorted. We ran through the gear safety checks and set off down the track. 

The track itself is probably the scariest part of the climb with loose gravel, a few steep down climbs and a cable traverse over nothing but air. 30 minutes later we were at the bottom and getting ourselves ready.

The plan was simple, I would lead the pitches and bring Andre up behind me. We could comfortably do the first 2 pitches and bail back to the bottom if things got a bit hairy. We checked over our gear once more, double checked all knots and got into it.

Andre joined me at the top of the first pitch and was visibly shaken. "I don't think I can go any further man, Im really not feeling it" He looked uncomfortable and it looked like that was it. Knowing this was probably just nerves, I offered a gentle push "lets go to the top of the next pitch and make a decision from there, its not far and pretty easy climbing" It wasn't difficult to rap back to the bottom from that point and at least he would have given the climb an honest try. I made my way to the next anchor and bought him up again, he was still pretty shaky but the job of belaying me had filled his mind with something else and it was agreed that it was worth trying to finish the whole climb.

The third pitch is an amazing traverse that moves up and sideways across the entire face of the mountain. Spectacular and exposed its the best pitch on the whole climb. Watching Andre from my belay on the other side of the face, I could see his body language change 10 mtrs into the traverse,  he suddenly relaxed, looked around and realised what he was doing and where he was. A big smile spread across his face as he joined me at the anchor.

Pitch 4 and 5 went off without much drama and we soon found ourselves sitting at the top of the cliff, 177 mtr from where we started. The look on Andres' face said it all "I never thought I would have ever been able to do something like that!" he stated. For someone afraid of heights he had kept control of his fear and pushed himself to a place he never thought he would be able to go. We sat on top in silence for awhile just soaking it all in, the climb, the conquering of a fear and the sun on our faces.

I know I've said this before, its amazing to take someone climbing and watch them go through such an intense emotional journey. The doubt, the fear and the elation when they realise that they actually can do this seemingly impossible feat. Climbing makes you grow as a person, this change happens immediately, sometimes after a single move. Watching someone go from visibly shaking to suddenly standing 10 feet tall and beaming with happiness is something I'll never tire of. 

Andre contemplating the walk in.

Andre contemplating the walk in.

Top of the second pitch, deciding weather to go on.

Top of the second pitch, deciding weather to go on.

Andre playing 'where's Wally' 

Andre playing 'where's Wally' 

Andre about to commit to the traverse

Andre about to commit to the traverse

Out on the face and starting to enjoy it

Out on the face and starting to enjoy it

That point where it all changed

That point where it all changed