Safety First?

Personal safety, what is that? After adventure and fun, personal safety was my third concern and that was my mentality entering into high school. I loved exercise and was relatively strong for my size; I jumped off piers and swam in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay; I rock climbed on massive vertical boulders; I navigated caves by crawling on my stomach and forearms; I would do anything the normal person would say “no” to out of fear; I loved adventure, everything about it: the anticipation, the adrenaline rush, the new experiences.

When my swim coach announced a climb on Mt. Shasta, 14,180 feet tall, 2.8 miles high, for the next summer I was more than ecstatic. After multiple parent meetings; the prospective climbers began training. I trained whenever given the opportunity: extra hills after daily swim practices, crunches before bed, and pushups while reading boring textbooks. I was in the best shape of my life, and I was ready for the adventure.

The week leading up to the climb, my parents kept trying to persuade me to not go after hearing about the deaths on the mountain due to injuries, but I told them I was invincible, plus I had my new wool socks that prevented blisters; therefore, my invincibility was justified. I convinced them to let me go while packing my 50 pound backpack complete with a helmet to protect against falling rocks, a pick axe for climbing, crampons for the boots to prevent slipping on the slick ice, a headlamp to attach to the helmet because most of the climbing would be in the dark, and an excess of excitement and trail mix. The itinerary included arriving at the camp late afternoon and going to bed early and waking up at one in the morning to begin the ascent up the mountain and continuing up the mountain until summiting.

Then disaster struck, literally. With an already dry winter, snow melt had exposed sections of the mountain supposedly covered in snow and rocks were falling rapidly, gaining momentum while racing down the mountain and striking unsuspecting climbers. As my coach and I kept anxiously checking on the weather, the storms began to progress and the wind grew more ferocious by the hour. With wind speed growing up to 60 miles per hour, experienced, seasonal climbers either voluntarily began their early descent while more persistent climbers were picked off the mountain, like strawberries, by the wind.

Even though my coach knew of my adoration of adventure, she canceled the trip. I was devastated. She explained that even though I wanted to do the climb, she could not let me. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to summit under those conditions. In other words, she had just rearranged my priorities: number three was now number one. Due to a combination of  my ignorance, uncontainable excitement, and inability to think logically, she took initiative and intervened. With that came a powerful and seemingly simple idea; safety should come first, or rather, safety must come first.

Since my potentially fatal experience, I have considered the consequences before making decisions. This is not to say that I no longer go on adventures, I do; I simply consider the potential “side effects” before participating.

Because we trained so extensively, my coach decided not to let our efforts go to waste; so, we went rock climbing instead, with our ropes and harnesses, of course.