Ten feet above my last bolt, I look down and start trying to do calculations. Math that I, admittedly, am not great with, considering the fact that I have never really been able to visually judge distance very accurately. With that in mind, ten feet was probably far less than that.
The theoretical and actual fall factors are differentiated by the amount of available rope in the system, and with stretch I’ll fall… how far? Twice the distance between my harness and the previous clip, plus…. The answer didn’t matter. The biggest issue was my apprehension, the fact that I could not find it in myself at that moment to trust my belayer to catch me safely, regardless of the distance I would travel through the air, despite that fact that the friend holding my rope was not the same person with whom I was hurt two weeks before.
This blow to my confidence and mental fortitude was hugely demoralizing. In one fell swoop it seemed that all of the faith I had worked to build in the climbing system was vastly diminished, and the real possibility of human error had viciously reinserted itself into my psyche, erecting once again the barrier in my mind that had so long acted as my greatest hurdle in reaching that meditative state.
Feeling defeated and terrified, I called down to my belayer and told them I was going to fall, reminding myself that this was someone with whom I had been through a lot, someone who took my safety seriously when he attached himself to me, someone who, no, was not immune to mistakes but who was yet to make one with me, and who was probably aware of how uncomfortable I was at that very moment.
I let go, and felt all of my muscles seize as I hurtled, the way they would when I first started climbing and weightlessness was the most frightening thing in the world, my clenched flying actually turning me into the greatest danger to myself. But the catch was soft, and safe, and the adrenaline flooding my body was cause for exhaustion, and I felt that much more capable, just one yard further ahead in my efforts to regain lost ground.