I will never be tired of looking at this picture, it reminds me of one of the best experiences I’ve had over the last few years. Climbing the O2, which was the first way that I thought of in a attempt to get rid of the fear of heights that has plagued me for the majority of my life so far. It was odd, when doing it because I was actually more afraid when looking up the line towards the rest of my group, instead of focusing out on the lights and buildings that surround the O2. The man running the session was very nice, and didn’t seem to get even a little impatient, despite the fact that I was ill prepared, lacking proper footwear before I started, and I couldn’t do up the harness without his assistance.
The following is a little piece which I wrote not long after having the experience, and read out to a small writing group I used to attend on a Friday morning.
Adrenaline wars with fear inside her as she nears the top, the cold wind whipping at her messy curls, pushing one right into her eyes. She doesn’t dare let go of the thick iron cable, her fingers tense around the cool strands and she feels glad of the thick gloves she has on.
Somehow it’s steadying her when she looks out at the bright lights of the city, rather than feeling sick because of how far above the street she is. The fear only returns as she glances further along the line to see how far ahead the others are.
She hates the idea of being the one that holds everyone else up, and tries to speed her progress. Her steps get bigger, along the bouncy blue tarpaulin as her confidence begins to grow.
The others are already examining the displays on the observation deck when she manages to make it there. She releases the clip holding her harness in place, and moves over to read the displays. Part of her wishes most fervently that she had been with someone she knows as she glances around at her fellow climbers, all of whom are in small groups or pairs. Their happiness is clear to see as they pose together, silhouetted against the bright lights of the city that spread out far beneath them, and it causes a pang of self pity to spring to life in her gut.
The gently spoken offer to take a photo is gratefully accepted, and she swiftly opens the Velcro sealed pocket on her trousers, slipping her phone from the safe place. Her gloved hands pass the Iphone into the hands of her fellow climber, and a proud beam curves her lips. The flash goes off, freezing her in the moment forever, framed by stars and feeling on top of the world.
Then the call comes for all the climbers to start the descent. She hooks herself back up again, slipping the phone back into it’s pocket, and glances back the way she came. Her heart sinks right to her toes when she sees the sheer angle of the other side.
Her steps are slow and careful, eyes flickering between the iron cable and the London skyline as they are the two things keeping her focused, and keeping her fear under control.
She only becomes aware of the distance between her and her fellow climbers, when she glances along the line to see that all but one is already on the ground. The climb leader comes bounding swiftly back along the line, and his soft reassuring words help her to speed her path back to solid concrete.
Her pride at having actually achieved it, and taken some steps to conquering her fear of heights are what drive her to purchase several souvenirs from the gift shop. She even asks about coming and doing it again, the idea of zip lining from the top of the O2 striking her as fun while adrenaline still pulses through her body.
The adrenaline and pride ebbs away, when she meets up with her brother. His common sense irritation with her, over how late she is bringing her spirits down to earth in line with her body. She glances back at the O2 building, as they leave the complex and can’t hold back the proud smile.