Sunday Snapshots 3: Climbing Things

Welcome to another edition of Sunday Snapshots. Each Sunday, I’ll post a favorite photo from my collection and share a little bit about it. You’ll go behind the scenes on some of our most memorable moments. Enjoy! [space_20]

No, I'm not scared of heights!

You can't quite tell it from this photo (unfortunately) but in it my friend Josh and I are standing on top of an aqueduct. An aqueduct in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that was built in 1837 to supply water to a port used primarily for the slave trade. Charming. The history buff in me simultaneously cringed and exclaimed "oooooooh!" when I found this out.

Conquering heights by climbing aqueducts in Montego Bay, Jamaica

This photo helps give you an idea of how high up we were, which was about 30 feet off the ground.

Now, I don't normally consider myself afraid of heights. I've walked along sheer cliffs in the Andes, scaled countertops to reach the top cabinet of my kitchen, and even paraglided.

But something about the top of that aqueduct was absolutely terrifying.

Climbing up was the easy part. There were stairs, so yeah pretty easy. Once I was up there, though, I felt completely off balance, on the brink of toppling off at any moment. Maybe it was the 20-pound camera backpack I was wearing, or my slippery flipflops, or the narrowness of the ledge, but my brain wasn't having it.

I've never experienced anything quite like it. One minute I was happily climbing up the steep steps and the next I was nearly paralyzed with fear, frozen in a standing cat-like position. I stood straddling the central water channel trying not to look down on either side. Each step forward took immense mental preparation and coaxing. I knew in the back of my head that this was ridiculous, but my self-preservation was in charge by that point.

Josh must have noticed how hard I was concentrating on each step because he asked me, "Oh, are you afraid of heights?"

"No!" I replied immediately.

And I'm not, really. I think what had me so scared about this particular climb was 1) my backpack was displacing my normal center of gravity, and 2) the fact that I could so clearly picture the ground below - and my inevitable tumble. In situations like mountain cliffs, you often can't see the bottom. And if you can, it's so far away that you can't really wrap your head around the distance you'd fall. When climbing something like a countertop, I'm so close to the ground already that falling would snap a wrist at worst. (That's not ideal, but it's not fear-inducingly fatal, either.)

So apparently standing on ledges 30-50 feet off the ground is my not-so-sweet-spot. It's that magical range where I can picture the bottom and picture the damage falling that far would do to me.

After some time I managed to gather my nerve and walk more smoothly along the top of the aqueduct. It wasn't so bad!

This experience definitely hasn't deterred me from climbing and exploring. On the contrary, now that I know my reaction to these types of heights I know how to better cope with them. Too bad there aren't that many aqueducts in Kansas City...