Yes, That’s me standing atop a 200 meter (600 foot cliff) at 2330 meters (apro 7000 ft) above sea level. This adventure took place in Leysin, Switzerland. You can see more pictures in my Facebook Album. I can imagine the question’s that my friends and family will ask me when they see this picture.
My Mom, will say, “Are you Crazy? Why would you do that?” She questions my motivations and sanity. Dad will ask, “Where is that? When did you go?” He wants the story. My brother, “How did you do that? What gear did you use?” He’s a climber like me. My friends in Chicago will ask, “Where you freaked out? What was it like?” They can’t imagine it.
The sport is called Via Ferrata (Italian for "road with irons"). It’s a series of steps and ladders drilled into the side of a mountain and it’s probably as close to real mountain climbing as the average person can get. Check out the Wikipedia entry for more details about this emerging adventure sport.
It is an entirely thrilling experience to put yourself so far out on the edge of security and the limits of human ability. When I started to put on my harness and approach the cliff face, my adrenaline started to pump. With each step as I rose higher and higher up the face creating more and more distance between myself and the ground beneath, I could sense my mind quieting. My mind becomes so focused on the task at hand, namely staying safe on the rock, that all other thoughts silence. By half way up I was at about 2100 meters above sea level, and approximately 100 meters above where I started. At this point there was only one thought in my mind, “Be on the Rock.” The billions of thoughts that run through my mind all day, some conscious others hidden in my sub-consious, stopped. Every thought was the same. Be on the Rock, One step at a time. Next hand hold, Put your foot there. Be safe. Be on the Rock. I wasn’t thinking about camera angels and how to tell this story, as I’m apt to do. I wasn’t thinking about my family and friends across the world. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. My mind was clear, focused, centered.
It wasn’t until I reached the Top, looking at the panorama of the Swiss Alps with Lake Geneva spreading out from their base, that I even realized what had happened. It wasn’t until the voices, the other thoughts started to rise again, that I realized how rare it is to have such moments of clarity and focus.
Rock Climbers know this feeling well. I have several friends that say that’s the reason they climb. “When your on the Rock, nothing else exists. The stresses of work, life, responsibility all fade beneath the all important task of climbing, because if you don’t focus on the rock you fall.”
You can’t climb and be thinking about all those other distractions. If you do, you’re putting yourself and sometimes even others in danger. It’s that danger, that essential knowledge that if I don’t focus, I’m putting myself in harms way, which brings my mind to clarity, to focus on the Rock.
Have you caught the spiritual parallel? Sometimes it takes hanging off a cliff, out beyond the limits of my comfort and my safety for me to focus. Out there, Christ clearly reminds me to leave all the noise of the world behind and focus on Him, To Be on the Rock. (Psalm 18)