Rappeling from Turtle Rock!

Friday, September 1, 1989

I slept pretty well, but was awake before dawn and as soon as the ridge of mountains was lit, I went out to the ridge above the campground to wait for sunrise. I decided to walk back up to my solitude site so that I could again enjoy the morning song and celebration of the birds and animals waking up in the forest. Again it was beautiful and very meaningful and worshipful to me.

I got back as others were getting up, so I helped with breakfast preparation and washing up from the night before.

We were given free time, but with the assignment that at some time during the morning we would write in each others journals under the headings

The members writings are in my journal. Jeff has been the initiator of things to include Peter and Bobbiane in everything, and he initiated sheets for them - which I appreciated.

On our last day at this campsite we decided to take a walk around the lake. This is a view of the lake from just below our campsite.

As we hiked around the lake, we got this view from the southeast end.

After lunch we packed up and I led the hike back down to Turtle Rock. I sensed that I was not just in front of the hikers, but that I was just gravitating to a position of leadership because everyone was confident and comfortable with my leadership. That has happened a lot of times in my life -- I don't really seek to lead, and I certainly don't like directing other people's activity or performance. Jeff has been the natural leader in things involving organizing the group to pack up, prepare meals, etc, but I seem to be the designated leader for hiking, and to some extent in the discussions. I like to see leadership arise naturally from the group, and Bobbi Ann and Peter were backing out of leadership of the group more and more to let that happen. In fact, in the case of this hike Peter had gone on before and Bobbi Ann had stayed behind to check over the campsite so we were on our own.

When we got to Turtle Rock it was evident that a rock exercise was on the agenda and we put on our "swamis" again for rappelling. I had forgotten the knot, so Mark helped me with it and helped several of the others. Peter and Bobbi Ann encouraged him to help and had in fact encouraged him to apply for a position as a "sherpa" next summer to help with the program.

I wanted to take pictures, so Peter told me how to get to the bottom of the rappelling cliff. I walked around to get there in time for Bobbi Ann to rappel down. When I saw the 100ft expanse of stone with a jumble of broken, jagged stone at the bottom, I had an adrenaline rush - lump in my throat, mouth dry as cotton. But Bobbi Ann came bopping down the cliff like a casual stroll, happy as a lark, loving every minute of it. I helped her untangle the ropes and we got ready for Mark's descent.

They had asked Mark if he wanted to be first and he had say "sure!" I was there with the camera as he came over the edge and looked down- from the top they couldn't see how high the cliff was, and it had to be really a thrill, or something, for Mark when he looked down from up there. He bopped on down like he was an old hand at it.

I stayed around to take pictures of Jeff as he came down, obviously scared to death but making cheerful remarks and singing hymns. I'm sure he was praying too!

Still cotton-mouthed since I had seen the height of the cliff, I made my way to the top to await my turn. Indomitable Lai Kit was being prepared for her descent. In her sharing of her 10 items I had complimented her on her sense of adventure and the lovely light of excitement that danced in her eyes. With eyes shining, she went over the edge and really seemed to enjoy it.

Jo went next, like a pro. He is really something. Ankie said I could go next. I was sitting there with teeth chattering, scared to death.

I had to walk down a slope to where Peter was standing, very close to the precipice, in order to get harnessed up. That was the scariest part. Once I got to that point, I could stand solidly and hold onto Peter as he harnessed me to the rappelling ropes and to the belay rope which he held as an additional safety line.

I had seen five people do it, I saw that there was no way I could fall, so I prayed that the Lord would just let me lean back and enjoy the experience.

As soon as I was hooked into the rappel line and felt how solid the double-rope line was, much of my fear melted away. Peter, very gentle and very thorough, finished hooking up the belay line and I was ready to go.

Backing down the slope toward the edge, I felt how much effort it took to make myself move, and how solidly and securely I stopped when I put pressure on with my brake hand.

Finally I reached the edge of the precipice. I knew, as none of the others had, what lay below me. There was about a 15 foot vertical face of white rock left almost perfectly smooth by a recent breakoff, the jagged pieces of which lay 100 feet below me.

I had told myself that I would be secure in the rappel about halfway down and only then would I stop and look down. By the time I reached there, Mark, Jeff and Jo were yelling at me to look down. Wow! My heart speeded up about another 20 beats per minute from its already furious pace. They looked like grasshoppers down below me - it was not 100 ft, it was at least a quarter mile!

About half way down the fear changed to thrill and I found myself shouting. I was able to stop and look down three or four times, but there was still some fear and trembling so I worked myself on down the vertical rock and then sideways over to where Bobbi Ann was waiting to take the harness off. What a trip!

Ankie and then Tish followed with us yelling encouragement to them. Both of them had rappelled before: Ankie had loved it and Tish had hated it. Ankie was thrilled and even Tish seemed to enjoy it this time.

We went back to the top to prepare for supper and our last night on the mountain.

Peter and Bobbi Ann approached me about leading the final act of fellowship for the group that night. They said that a large loaf of bread and a water bottle of grape juice had been backpacked in to them. They usually did a communion service, but they were concerned that this service in this casual setting would offend Tanya, who was a member of the Orthodox Church. We discussed calling it a fellowship celebration with me reading scripture, making a few comments and then sending the bread and juice around. I was honored by their request.

We had supper and then gathered in the "bedroom" for our final sharing session. We had a couple of skits about the "bedroom" and about the latrine, about the "bee dance", about rock climbing. We shared highlights, and coerced Bobbi Ann and Peter to share their "10 things" and then warmly affirmed them.

I read the first part of John 15 about the vine and talked about fellowship, community, and then passed the juice left and the bread right around the circle. Each person in passing the element was to share a blessing or a "I like you because" with the person passed to. Mark was on my left and Tanya on my right.

I was nervous about it, but that nervousness changed to exhilaration when I saw how well it was working. It was a nice celebration. Both elements made about two circles and then Bobbi Ann broke out a bowl of bananas and honeydew melon. We had a great time!

Tanya had been our concern - communion is a sacrament in her church and much more formal than in protestant churches. I had gone to her beforehand to assure her that we were having a celebration of fellowship and not disrespecting the sacrament. She was quite receptive and in fact was the only one to come to me afterward to express appreciation for the activity.

September 2
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