March 14, 2017

"The first thing Sam calmly said to me when he picked up the phone was, 'Dad, don’t freak out, but mom’s been in an accident...'"

"'...and she’s in a helicopter being flown off the mountain.' The mountain, that is, that she had basically fallen off."
... Imagine this for a minute: I was in India staring at the Ganges River, getting bits and pieces of information from friends and family in the United States [in Utah], about my wife who was in a helicopter being flown off a big mountain to a hospital in New Zealand, where we are living for the year. You couldn’t pick three other points on the globe that were much farther apart....

And, as my mind drifted to the worst-case situation, the vast majority of the thoughts I had boiled down to regrets. I wish I had spent more time with her. I wish I had hugged her more. I wish we had gone for more hikes together....

Over the following weeks, as it became clear my wife was going to be O.K., my thoughts started to shift from the regrets I would have had at the end of her life to what regrets I might have at the end of my own. “I bet I’ll wish I spent more time with my family,” I thought. That I did more climbs in the Tetons....
Interesting reading this right after returning from spending 2 weeks hiking with Meade in Utah (and Death Valley). I guess we were doing the right thing, but what most resonates with me is: falling off a mountain. I have a fear of falling off a mountain, and sometimes I faced it down and continued, and 2 times — at the Red Cathedral and Dante's View in Death Valley — I stopped and had Meade go on without me as I waited in a safer place. I'm not sure which direction I'm motivated to lean — going up more mountains or getting more closely attached to my belief that you can fall off a mountain.

What Meade saw at Dante's View:

IMG_1385

What I saw:

IMG_2565.JPG

42 comments:

Drago said...

"What Meade saw at Dante's View:

What I saw"

When oh when will you two see eye to eye?

Roger Sweeny said...

My wife is like you and I'm like Meade. We try to make it work. So far, so good.

Virgil Hilts said...

3 words for MeadeHouse -- Ooh Aah Point (grand canyon off S. Kaibab trail) --a woman did fall off this cliff last year taking a photo (no, one does not survive this type of fall).
Due to magic of internet, less intrepid souls can now experience this spot online thru grand canyon panorama project
http://www.gcpano.org/grand-canyon/south-rim/south-kaibab-trail/ooh-aah-point/

traditionalguy said...

Fear of falling is one of the few natural born fears. You are peculiar if you don't have it .

And then there are steel erector workers doing it at the 120th floor. And they don't get Parachutes like the Troopers of the 82nd Airborne do. The Airborne usually jumps out at 700 feet, but that is 690 feet too many for me.

Being sensitive like the Professor is a real pain to them, like my wife cannot open her eyes going over long and high bridges at seaport cities designed to clear Aircraft Carrier ship masts. When I am lucky, she is asleep when we go back over it later. But she still gets angry that I crossed it without her knowledge.

Lyle Smith said...

My fear of heights has eased a bit with more mountain hiking. Trails in national parks are safe and to fall badly you would have to be doing something stupid or propel yourself down on purpose, I think.

Fernandinande said...

what regrets I might have at the end of my own.

"I hope that when I die, people say about me, 'Boy, that guy sure owed me a lot of money.'" --J.H.

dreams said...

In eastern Ky the location of the Natural Bridge State Park, the local though macabre joke is that you know it's spring when the buckeyes start falling because so many young intoxicated people from the Cincinnati area fall off the cliffs due to their risky behavior.

chuck said...

When I was a boy I developed a fear of falling off mountains that lasted a couple of years and made hiking difficult. And then it was gone. I don't recall exactly when that happened, but as a teen I was going up rocky slopes in the White Mountains without a thought, and some of those slopes were genuinely dangerous.

dreams said...

"Down 60 feet to the jagged stone riverbank.

One young woman landed on her back. Her legs stuck straight up in the air. Pelvis cracked.

Nearby, a young man was face down and still; the Red River lapped at his feet. A third victim wailed in agony.

Mark Ryan, a wilderness first responder, caught all of the misery by headlamp."

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/06/18/red-river-gorge-cincinnati-deaths-accidents/81230428/

Ann Althouse said...

"3 words for MeadeHouse -- Ooh Aah Point (grand canyon off S. Kaibab trail) --a woman did fall off this cliff last year taking a photo (no, one does not survive this type of fall)."

Walking up to the edge of a canyon isn't a problem for me. I just stay back from the edge and can choose how close to go (never close enough that a fall is possible). It's not the height, it's the idea of falling, which I picture with every step. To get to the top of a mountain trail, you often have to walk on a narrow ledge, and sometimes the drop is steep to one side and there's nothing that high on the other side. I'm not willing to walk on the ledge. The ledge isn't so narrow that it's likely you'd fall. Maybe it's 18" wide. But I just do not want to walk on a thing like that.

Ann Althouse said...

What could ruin Grand Canyon for me is a crowd. I don't want to take the trouble to go to a great vantage point and then have to see people posing and taking pictures. I don't want to have to worry about THEM falling. I don't want to see any jostling or inattention. I don't want to see children in danger.

We were going to include Grand Canyon in our trip. I've never seen it. But I guess I've been avoiding it because I'm afraid it's a tourist trap. On this trip, only the southern rim was open, so we decided to bypass it.

Titus said...

I have no interest in climbing a mountain or even a hill.

Ann Althouse said...

"My fear of heights has eased a bit with more mountain hiking. Trails in national parks are safe and to fall badly you would have to be doing something stupid or propel yourself down on purpose, I think."

Hmm. Here's a sentence I said more than once: "I can't believe the federal government lets us do this."

Ann Althouse said...

"I have no interest in climbing a mountain or even a hill."

There's a difference between men's bodies that are well-shaped by real outdoor activities and men's bodies that have been shaped by indoor gym equipment, like the body you are using as your avatar. I don't understand thinking that the gym body is more attractive.

Portlandmermaid said...

I have a fear of falling off a mountain road in a car. When possible, meaning no other traffic is around, my nice husband drives slowly down mountainside roads while I do deep breathing in the passenger seat.

I believe this fear stems from being in a car driven by an angry boyfriend who I was breaking up with. We were on a twisty road with a drop off on my side. He kept swerving toward the edge of the road yelling he was going to kill us.

Lesson learned, never break up in a moving car.

JaimeRoberto said...

So I guess Angel's Landing was out of the question?

My sister-in-law and her kids got rubbery legs on the start of the last ascent and had to turn around, but it wasn't that bad. It doesn't matter if you fall 50 feet or 500 feet, the result is the same. If you focus on what's in front of you, you don't even notice. My adolescent daughter has looked at Youtube videos of the climb and says "I don't remember it being like that. It was easy."

bagoh20 said...

Snowflake 101:

Like many fears, a disabling fear of heights is just lack of exposure and information. The more you expose yourself to the situation the less it bothers you. Remember being afraid of driving, or a high diving board, or sex, or opposing viewpoints, or a government shutdown, or Trump. After experiencing it without incident, the fear goes away...eventually. Because it was based on lack of information, only having some information: the possible danger, and not having the other information: the experience of nothing happening.

chuck said...

> On this trip, only the southern rim was open, so we decided to bypass it.

I prefer the northern rim, but you need to make reservations early if you want to stay at the lodge. It is definitely worth the trip.

People do fall. A professor at the University of Utah took a visiting professor from Germany to Arches and his friend fell off a cliff and was killed. What a terrible thing to happen.

Roughcoat said...

Mountains, I'm okay with. High narrow ledges with vertical drops of a thousand feet and more, I'm okay with. I've climbed 13,000 foot mountains and sat on the peaks which were only a couple feet wide, and I'm okay with that too. What I AM afraid of is, balconies on the umpteenth floor of high-rise buildings. Freaks me out. Why is that? Why is it I'm not afraid of dangerous high mountain ledges and edges, e.g., but paralyzed with fear on, say, a balcony on the 51st floor?

Someone please tell me. Your guesses and speculations are welcome.

madAsHell said...

You should buy a good pair of boots, or take up downhill skiing, and learn how to keep your shoulders parallel to the fall line!!

Roughcoat said...

Standing at the very edge of the Slieve League cliff in County Donegal, Ireland, produced the most profound stomach-dropping-out, gonad-churning feeling I've ever experienced.

bagoh20 said...

""I can't believe the federal government lets us do this."

That's was my overpowering thought when they first let me fly an airplane solo "cross-country" over Los Angeles before I ever got a pilot's license. That how it works, when you are learning, and you have not finished getting tested and licensed. They send you out to fly around alone, even over cities in a flying aluminum blender full of gasoline. You fly low and high, get lost, practice different maneuvers including shutting off the power, and stalling the airplane, and attempting to recover from it. It's really that they let you do that, but it very rarely turns out bad. In fact, I never heard of a student pilot blowing it, although it surely must happen.

madAsHell said...

Someone please tell me. Your guesses and speculations are welcome.

Junior engineers, and contractor kick-backs are pretty high on my list.

traditionalguy said...

So there is a reason it's called Death Valley.

EDH said...

Everybody has their own opinion
Holding it back, hurts so bad
Jumping out of my flesh
And I said: Cash in!
Cash in now honey

Comin' down the mountain

I was comin down the mountain
Met a child she had pin eyes
We had the same opinion
Had the same opinion
She was holding it back
It hurts do bad
Jumping out of her flesh
And I said

Cash in!
Cash in now honey

~ Gordon Pasha said...

Had a friend who was hiking in Wyoming about 10 years ago. He fell off Gannett Peak and slid down an ice chute about 500 feet to his death. Mountaineering can be a very dangerous undertaking.

Michael said...

Althouse: I can't believe the government lets us do this.

Indeed. And so you should go to the Grand Canyon and instead of walking to the bottom take the mule train to the camp down at the very bottom on the river. You will never forget that ride down. Or up.

The Grand Canyon is a thing I skipped for fifty plus years. It is a thing not to be missed. The tourists don't go more than a mile down the trail.

Michael said...

Roughcoat

I have the same issue. I believe that in the mountains, unless you are a big wall climber, there is always some bit of ground a few feet below you even it it just a bump before you go into the abyss. The 52nd floor is an abyss the whole way.

Big Mike said...

When I look out the window of an airplane my first thought is always "I'd be conscious all the way down."

As to regrets, there aren't many things left on our bucket list -- a cruise to Alaska (the only cruise we'd ever dream of taking) is about it. And it's a rare day when I don't tell my wife that I love her.

DanTheMan said...

>>What could ruin Grand Canyon for me is a crowd.

The last time I was there, I went to watch the sunset from Navajo point. Two little old lady tourists were there, talking on their cell phones the entire time, describing the experience to somebody on the other end.

At one point, one of them said "It's so quiet out here!" and I turned around and told her "It's not as quiet as it could be.".
They then spent the next 5 minutes of the conversation talking about the rude man who wouldn't let them enjoy the sunset...

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Breitbart has a falling off a mountain story with a relatively happy ending.




John Scott said...

Fly a hang glide off of one. If you don't forget to hook in you won't fall.

Ann Althouse said...

"I have a fear of falling off a mountain road in a car. When possible, meaning no other traffic is around, my nice husband drives slowly down mountainside roads while I do deep breathing in the passenger seat."

Yeah, I have the same problem. Meade figured out how to help me by giving me complete power to say "slower" and get him to slow however much I need. It was very helpful on the Beartooth Highway a couple years ago and again this year on the Hogsback Road in Utah.

"I believe this fear stems from being in a car driven by an angry boyfriend who I was breaking up with. We were on a twisty road with a drop off on my side. He kept swerving toward the edge of the road yelling he was going to kill us."

Well, that's just terrible, but I have the fear and nothing like that ever happened to me.

"Lesson learned, never break up in a moving car."

Never do any kind of emotional drama in a car. Even if you have to pull over and deal with a problem, don't drive through an argument. Even a friendly over-involving conversation can be a mistake: that's how I totaled Li'l Greenie.

Virgil Hilts said...

Also, never ride in a car with with a driver who insists on taking photographs instead of concentrating on the driving.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPt_SBuIaIs

sunsong said...

In the end you don't take any stuff with you. It's all about the timeless things: love, family, friends growing and helping others...

Michael K said...

A guy I knew pretty well about 50 years ago, a faculty member at the medical school, had a chance to go for a year and be the chief of staff at the Lyndon B Johnson Medical Center in American Samoa.

There was a good salary and it looked like a year of fun for his family.

One of his kids drowned in the surf while there.

rcocean said...

"We were going to include Grand Canyon in our trip. I've never seen it. But I guess I've been avoiding it because I'm afraid it's a tourist trap. On this trip, only the southern rim was open, so we decided to bypass it."

To me it was a tourist trap, if all you're going to do is walk around the rim and take a picture. The only interesting thing to me and my wife was the walk down to the River.

rcocean said...

Fear of heights is not something you can "work through" for a lot of people. Including me. I can control my fear, but that's doesn't make it an enjoyable experience. Which is why I've never hiked on some of the more narrow and "scary" mountain trails. What would be the point?

I'm willing to "endure" the scary parts if there's a big reward, but usually there isn't one.

Rick said...

My neighbor's son was accused of murdering his wife by pushing her over a 500-foot cliff at the Utah park (Zion) in May 1997 to get $1.25 million from a life insurance policy and inheritance. He says his wife stumbled and fell down the cliff while walking along the edge of a trail.

He was found not guilty.

JDH said...

Not going to the Grand Canyon because you think it is a tourist trap is really too bad. The view from the South rim is one of the most spectacular sights anywhere in the world. Just because on any given day hundreds or thousands of others agree, doesn't mean you should skip it. That is borderline snobbish, just to skip something because others might enjoy it. And besides, its a big area with plenty of unobstructed views. Otherwise, the only precaution you need to take is to not take selfies near the edge.

As for fear of falling off mountains, it's a Darwinian world. My guess is that 99 percent of the people who "fall" off mountains were doing some kind of stunt, or just being dumb (like taking selfies near the edge of a cliff).

The Godfather said...

@Althouse: I add my recommendation that you not miss the Grand Canyon. I hiked across it, north rim to south rim, in 1960 (I was 17). I suppose even then you could have called the south rim something of a tourist trap, and it may be worse now. On the other hand, in Paradise there's probably a Days Inn and a Burger King outside the Pearly Gates for those whose references have to be checked, but you'd still go if given the chance.

One thing, though. When I was there, the trail down the north rim and then later the trail up the south rim was used by both hikers and the mule trains. If you were a hiker and a mule train came along, you were instructed to stand on the OUTSIDE edge of the trail, because if you were on the inside of the trail you'd make the mules nervous. I suppose that's still the way it's done.

You and Meade are still young enough to cross the canyon, either by foot or by mule, and I urge you to do it. You'll never forget it. In 47 years, I never have.

ndspinelli said...

Admitting ones fears is a sign of strength, not weakness. I have a horrible fear of bats. i visited Carlsbad Caverns when all the bats were south in Mexico for the winter. Now, discuss your fear of flying.