While talking with a friend about our upcoming girls transformation trip to Quebec City she mentioned that we would be going canyoning and then showed me a video. Me being me, and loving any type of adventure, of course was ecstatic! “I’m totally in and can’t wait!”, I said. In the days prior, another friend who was going on the trip emailed me and asked if I was going canyoning. “ABSOLUTELY!”, I said. She then went on to tell me she was a bit concerned about it and it just usually wasn’t her cup of tea but she was considering it still.
When we got there, we did several activities, but I could not wait to do the canyoning. We were set to do it our last day there. That day it was a bit misty and rainy and cool, but not cold.
We were going to Canyon Sainte-Anne, near Quebec City. As we walked up to the canyon and peered over from the bridge, it was beautiful. It was this gorgeous, enormous waterfall. There were cables running everywhere that we assumed we would be climbing over and I was thrilled. There were 6 of us on the trip and it turned out 2 of the girls weren’t quite as thrilled about the experience as I was, but they were going to go for it! So proud of them!
Then we suited up in our harnesses and helmets and got started. For those of you that have never been, I assure you that it’s safe. We were tethered to a cable so even if we fell, we wouldn’t go far and we were never loose. The cables attached and we had to run our ring through the interchanges and until we were back on flat ground at the end. We couldn’t remove ourselves from the cable.
Right off the bat we had to cross the first cable bridge over a large canyon walking over, tightrope style, to the other side.
We could even attach a second lock and dangle from the cable hanging mid air. I was loving this. When we got to the other side we started climbing around on this enormous cliff. It wasn’t hard and we were moving pretty slow and the views were just amazing. Every corner we turned was another amazing view.
As we looked over we could see on the other side of the waterfall, more cables. They were running right along side the fall and I asked our guide if we would end up over there. She said, “This is the beginner course and that is the intermediate and expert course! You ladies bought the whole experience, so you’ll be over there later!” I think at this point, I did a happy dance. THAT looked awesome! After about 15 or 20 minutes my friend that had been more skeptical about going and was in front said she didn’t want to lead. I said “I WILL!”, so we rearranged our tethers and I was in the lead. Right about then I got a little cocky. I thought “Yes, let’s do this!’
It was then that I turned and instead of slowly working my way down the rock to the lower level, I jumped. When I did that my feet slid out from under me and I fell…HARD. I busted my ass in the worst way. Everybody froze while I tried to get up. I had really hurt myself and I knew it. Everyone asked if I was ok and of course I told them yes, not wanting to admit my defeat. I held back the tears and carried on. Thinking all the while that I might need to go to the hospital. As I rounded a corner into this little closed off area ahead of everyone else, I started to cry. I kept telling myself to keep it together and stop being a baby. I pulled myself together in time for everyone to catch up. We rounded the corner and kept going, still on the beginner course. Toward the end of the course there was a climb straight up the cliff. There were footholds to use, but in some portions you really had to contort your body in a crazy way while moving your cable tether through the loops and get your foot to the next foothold while you went up. It was difficult. Especially for someone who has no upper body strength, like myself.
I finished. All I could think was ‘How the fuck am I going to do Intermediate and Expert?’. How was I? Seriously?
We had to walk to the intermediate entrance and as we walked I was completely silent. I couldn’t think. My ass hurt so fucking bad and I was still shaking a bit from climbing the last portion of the beginner. I wanted to skip the intermediate and expert. I asked the guide if the intermediate and expert were very much harder than this one, because I didn’t think I would be able to pull it off if they were. She told me she thought I would be ok. I wanted to say “have you ever had a broken tailbone and tried climbing this shit?”. I’m pretty sure she hadn’t.
I decided I had boasted so much about how much I wanted to do this, that I would do it. ‘I can finish intermediate and then skip the expert’, I thought.
Off we go behind this little billy goat, guide who was 20 at best with this rockin’ body, cute as a button and just so bubbly. She bounced around these cliffs like a monkey. And off she went starting on the intermediate. I took a deep breath and off I went. The 2 ladies that were considering NOT going at all, decided that they were pretty proud of themselves for finishing the beginner course and they were satisfied. So they sat this one out. Smart girls. There were four of us moving on to torture ourselves.
As we started intermediate, which I thought was much harder than beginner (thank you very much billy goat guide) I realized how much confidence and excitement my ass busting had cost me. My ass still hurt with every single movement. Also, now every foot placement was iffy at best. In addition to all of that, my hiking shoes kept slipping, which, although we were attached, still provided a nice slam into the side of the cliff. I could feel my confidence fading with each step.
I started holding my arm over the top cable to try to maintain some sort of control to keep from sliding. But that didn’t work either. I would still slip and then just bruise up under my arm on the cable. Every step was tedious. Every step was a challenge. I was hurting in every muscle, every joint, every where. My arms felt like jelly. I wanted to quit. But I had nowhere to go. I had to finish!
I was talking to myself now. “What the fuck am I doing? I’m old. I can’t do this. I can’t do this!”. As we passed the exit for intermediate to move onto expert, I wanted so desperately to quit. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Now it was a quest and DAMMIT, I wanted to see the waterfall part. Every corner I kept thinking, ‘please let this be it. PLEASE!’. It wasn’t. It was endless.
There were parts that you were basically pulling your entire body weight up hanging upside down. I would try and try and just couldn’t do it. I told the guide “I CAN’T!!!”. Only 1 of the girls in our group was behind me, but I knew if I didn’t finish….neither could she! She was tethered behind me and had no way of getting around me to go on.
Visions of a helicopter lowering to lift me out of the canyon filled my head. I could just see me and my big fat, overweight, broken ass dangling from the chopper and on the Quebec nightly news.
There were parts where I would try and try and try and not be able to get up and then I would take a big deep breath and DO IT! Things I NEVER thought I could do. (NO upper arm strength – I’m not kidding. My 11 year old beat me at arm wrestling.)
Then we got to the waterfall. We were standing right over it and the spray was hitting us in the face. My ass hurt, my arms ached, I was bruised all over. I was freezing cold and completely soaking wet. The spray from the waterfall was hitting us with such force I thought my contacts were going to get stuck somewhere between my eyelid and my brain for sure….. But I will say this…it was…..amazing. Just…AMAZING. For a moment I forgot that I wouldn’t be able to sit down for 2 months and be in the moment. Really take it all in and enjoy that moment. I breathed in a huge deep breath of waterfall spray and closed my eyes and I truly loved that moment. It was fantastic. It was beautiful.
Then back to reality, this wasn’t the end. I still had to climb out of there. We moved on to the last stretch. I thought it might be easier after the waterfall but it wasn’t. There were more touch and go moments but we finally finished. Once we got through it all and off of the cable, I tried not to let anyone see me, but I cried. I was overcome with emotion. I was so proud of myself for completing this after truly thinking I couldn’t. I told myself over and over I couldn’t but I did it! It was truly one of the hardest physical and emotional things I’ve ever done. I’ve hiked Angel’s Landing, I’ve gone through a divorce, I’ve given birth to three kids, but this was definitely the hardest.
After we all changed into some dryer clothes and went back to the house, I sat and thought about the day and here’s what I realized:
This experience was so much like life and really mirrored a lot of my life the last 2 years. I was so excited for something new and I jumped in with both feet and it was nothing like I had pictured in my head. I got hurt badly. I tried to make things go smoothly and kept slipping, each time to get hurt again. I lost self confidence. I didn’t think I would see the end. There were times that I didn’t think I could go on. Times that I wanted to give up and hurl myself off of that damn cliff. Every time I thought it was almost the end, there was something more difficult that awaited me that I would have to work through. There were times that I needed a hand to help me, to pull me up. Sometimes it was there. Many times it wasn’t. I didn’t think I was strong enough to pull myself up. But I somehow found the strength. I somehow found a way to get through it. And I’m so fucking proud of myself for having made it to the other side. I was bruised, sore and broken in some places. But I’ve healed. And now I’m so much stronger mentally and physically. I’ve vowed to never allow myself to be that weak again so I work everyday on strengthening my body and soul. I learned a lot about myself through that experience…both Canyoning and the last 2 years. I’m a stronger and better ME. A me that is better for everyone around me!
Life’s just that way sometimes, isn’t it? It beats you up and knocks you down, but keep going. Keep pulling yourself up and be proud of yourself for making it through!
The plane ride home was absolutely no picnic with a broken tailbone. My mind just kept realizing one thing….’I DID IT’.
The next time you feel like you can’t go on, remember that you can. You can do anything you set your mind to and in the end you’ll realize just how strong you can be.
Just a side note: For most people this was not nearly as difficult as it was for me. I have never been Canyoning before and took on the ‘expert’ course first time out. Also being overweight and having no upper body strength didn’t help either. I would highly recommend it to anyone that is even moderately active.
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