By: Lindsey Marshall
Five individuals of all ages journey into the great Laurel Highlands to challenge their limits and to experience all that nature has to offer. Sounds like a setup for the perfect action movie, right? Sure, but I should rewind just a bit. Let’s go back to the previous week.
As a Venture Outdoors Intern, I was asked what kind of outdoor trip I wanted to experience. After searching through the calendar, one stuck out to me. I knew it’d be scary and difficult, but I wanted to go and challenge myself.
I went home that evening, overjoyed with excitement and told my family the news. Instead of being met with encouragement, I was met with a roar of laughter. As daring as I may be, heights were my weakness, and my family knew this. Yes, I could go into the many very “traumatic” incidents of me being afraid of heights. One example was when 19-year-old me cried on the Swing Shot at Kennywood, but I’ll spare myself the embarrassment of the other stories. Regardless of what my family thought, I knew I had to go and overcome my fears.
Okay, let’s fast forward to the morning of the “big day”. I was so ready, I went to bed early, wore all the essential clothes, and had snacks. I even did my research and read every blog and information page, so basically, I was a pro at this point. However, the realness of what I was about to do didn’t exactly hit me until halfway through the drive. My mind quickly went to every worse possible scenario and now I was nervous. What If I die? Should I call my family and say my goodbyes? Oh my gosh, I don’t even have a will written! I tried to calm down by playing my absolute favorite song, “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus, but even my girl Miley didn’t help.
I pull into the lot and see the four other individuals already there. I get out and say my name and that I’m a Venture Outdoors Representative for this trip. We start talking about how much experience we all have. Three of the five have been doing this for a while and the fourth was decently experienced. Then they asked me…the moment of truth…or a white lie. I didn’t want to feel like a rookie, so I said I’ve gone to places before, just not in Laurel Highlands. For the record, this was theoretically true.
After all the introductions and white lies were done, we got into our cars and drove to another parking lot outside of Laurel Highlands. Once we arrived Fred, our leader, started going over safety information and details. After everything was said and done, we grabbed all the equipment and hiked to the first area.
It was time to gear up. We fitted our shoes, adjusted our helmets, tightened our harness, knotted our figure eights, and clipped on our belay. The moment of truth. Would I shy I away from fear or face it head on?
On belay? Belay on. Climbing? Climb on. This was it. I nestled my foot into one pocket of the rock, my other foot in another pocket. My hands were searching, reaching, trying to find an edge to cling to. As my hands found edges, my legs would launch up. I kept doing this until I reached the top. Looking down, I didn’t have fear, just tremendous joy over what I had just accomplished. After a mini photo shoot directed by Fred (leader) and fellow climber (Lisa), it was time to go down. Lower me please? Lowering. Off belay? Belay off.