"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
- Oscar Wilde
It'd be nice if I had Molly's hair, if I had Brett's voice, Leigh's torso, Jacqueline's legs, if I was multilingual like Gus, had my brother's metabolism. Eh, I sure do spend a lot of time wondering what it'd be like to be someone else ... or forgetting to "check my cool at the gate."
Last Thursday, I got to go to the Via Ferrata for work. A Via Ferrata (Italian for "iron road") is an isolated rock climbing route designed to be accessible to people with a wide range of climbing abilities. I got to the VF around 10 am, and got set up with my harness, ropes and helmet. I was anxious to get started since I've been working for the VF for the past 3 weeks, and this way my first time climbing. The guide, Gatan, and I climbed with a couple from New Zealand who were in their mid-50's, if I had to guess. Peter and Stephanie spend their New Zealand winters in a camper in NE West Virginia each year. The four of us started with a 20-minute hike up the mountain. I was a little concerned when I was out of breath during the first mile of a 4-hour climb ... but it was 95 degrees, so I was just getting acclimated to the heat? Once we got to the rocks, we got set up and climbed a few hundred feet up the first vertical face. My legs felt a big like rubber and were trembling uncontrollably ... but I was just getting a feel for it? During the ascent, Gatan would ask about some species of plant or bird he just spotted. I refused to divert my eyes even for a second ... "Oh yeah, it's probably an Osprey." Once we got to the top, we had to traverse a ledge to get to the other side of the fin. This part is referred to as "Scheisse," or "shit" in German. Eh, overrated. I didn't even flinch. Pete and Steph made a comment about how "collected" I am ... Oh sure, this is a walk in the park, I could do this with my eyes closed, see you at the peak of K2.
Once we got to the other side, we walked across a 200' wire bridge suspended 150' up. On the other side, we reached the "optional" head wall. Optional? Oh, please. I would look like such a pansy if I passed on the most difficult portion of the climb. This wall wasn't 90 degrees like the rest and was a bit smoother. At this point, the heat was getting to me. Sweat was dripping from under my helmet and into my eyes, my hands were slipping on the rocks, my triceps quivering. I'm already half way up ... I'd look like an idiot if I quit now. We finally made it to the summit (Note: a girl has fallen to her death from this point in recent years) and the view's breathtaking. While we're taking in the panoramic view of WV, Peter says to me, in his New Zealand accent:
"Jessica, you sure do defy my stereotype of American women."
"Because you don't care what you look like and you do things."
HA. I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed my first rock climbing experience and look forward to doing it again. I sort of get a kick out of my heart beating out of my chest and my throat swelling up.
While Pete perceived me as a fearless do-er, I peed my pants approximately 3 times during the climb. As collected as I may have seemed, there were multiple times I considered asking if there was an available helicopter that could pick me up.
I may seem low-maintenance, coming back to VA to my non-A/C cabin, without internet or TV, to cook pasta in my coffee maker. In truth, there's little I wouldn't have done for an Oreo McFlurry from McDonald's, the latest copy of Vogue, and a venti iced hazelnut coffee from Starbucks ... How's that for the American stereotype?