Arch in Moab, UT

Lessons from Moab

As I reflect on my recent hiking and rappelling trip in Moab with my husband, son, and friends, I find a few lessons I have learned.

As a preface, I love being outside, if it is sunny and warm. I also love the wide open red rock country of Southern Utah.

I do not like hiking. I have endured some challenging hikes in order to be with my family. I have been rappelling prior to this experience and enjoyed it. 

This experience was quite different…

I struggle with sciatica on my left side and have nearly bone on bone rubbing in my lower spine. This shooting pain is aggravated by long drives, long walks and firm beds. I don’t sleep well when I am not in my own bed and surroundings.

So our first morning, I was already mildly struggling. The days were very warm as well (95 degrees). 

Man rapelling down rocks in Moab UT

Our first day in Moab we hiked to and rappelled the Medieval Chamber and Morning Glory Arch. It was a beautiful and relatively easy hike.

The first rappel was into the Chamber and was really fun. Part way down, my footing got a little off and I ended up tipping sideways and nearly upside down in my harness as I approached the bottom.

We all got a good chuckle out of it.

The 2nd rappel of the hike was the Morning Glory Arch, a 122 ft rappel, most of it free fall. This was amazing.

Part way down, I realized I was more shaken by my tipping over during the first rappel than I thought. I was more shaky and weak.

The hike out was a wonderful walk through the shallow creek or sandy trail.

That evening we selected our 2nd trail and set of rappells, called Bow and Arrow and had 4 rappells. Not being an experienced hiker or rappeler, I didn’t think much of it. 

Our second day in Moab, we got a late start. It was already warm. I was very tired and not feeling very strong.

As we drove to the trailhead I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder. I told myself this was going to be a leisurely walk and I would be fine.

It never occurred to me that I could have stayed at the condo, which looking back, I should have done.

Rocks, and hoodoos in Moab, UT

Within a short time, I was needing a rest in the shade. I soon developed heat exhaustion.

The trail was rugged and difficult for me. We stopped often so I could rest.

The more we stopped and rested the more agitated I became because I felt it was my fault everyone was experiencing more of the heat of the day.

Our friends ran out of water. Everyone continued to encourage me along. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. 

After our first short rappel, our friends realized I had heat exhaustion and we found a place in the shade where we could all lie down and rest for a while. I was given a priesthood blessing and I continued to plod along.

My husband and son stayed nearby to assist me and to perhaps find an easier way through. Because of the difficulty of the trail, after the 1st rappel it was practically impossible for me to turn around and go back the way I came. The best option was to continue forward to the end.

By the time we got to the last 3 rappells, I was in constant tears, scared, exhausted, shaking and weaker than ever.

And I still had to get down.

These rappels happened one after the other. The 2nd rappel was 122 feet and the final rappel was 90 feet, with another 80 or 90 foot rappel in between.

person rappelling in Moab, UT

My husband held me and let me cry and did his best to encourage me. He went down before me so he would be at the bottom to be the brakes, in case I couldn’t brake for myself.

Our more experienced friends stayed at the top and made sure I got clipped in right and started down in the best way. I was weak enough that it was all I could do to hold myself upright and hold on to the rope as I rappelled down.

My hands were getting burned through the leather gloves because of the friction on the rope, and the length of the rappel. My figure 8 also burned my arm because I was trying to hold myself up and got too close to the metal.

Any time the rope jerked or I spun around, I would get more scared and more tearful. I was so relieved to finally be at the bottom and to get the gear off and to wait for our ride back to the condo. 

After a few days I was able to reflect on the lessons of this trip to Moab. 

One of the lessons I learned is that I need to know my ability and fitness level.

It doesn’t matter if others say it will be okay. If I am not fit enough for the trip, I shouldn’t make it. I should stand up for myself. 

It’s important to learn and know what the symbols and numbers in the trekking guide mean. Know the difficulty of the hike and rappel(s).

Another lesson, be prepared with plenty of water, electrolytes and protein. 

Another lesson, go with those who have experience, use a guide, whether it be a professional, a map or accurate hiking app.  

Perhaps the most important lesson is to know and trust the equipment.

While I had been rappelling before, I was not comfortable enough with the equipment that I could operate it by myself. I had always expected others to make sure my harness was on tight enough and I was clipped in to the figure 8 and rope securely and safely. 

As I think about my experience, I do not remember any of the words of the priesthood blessing I was given. Because of that blessing, I am confident I was helped by a power greater than my own. Even though it was all I could do to hang on. I was able to hang on to the rope. 

My husband could hold me as I cried and expressed my fears.

My friends could encourage me and make sure I was safely connected to the rope and the anchor.

My husband and son could be at the bottom to shout encouragement, be a brake, just in case, and be there when I arrived. 

Rapelling equipment

Ultimately, I had to trust that the anchor in the mountain would hold strong.

I had to trust that the ropes would hold me.

I had to trust that my harness was secure.

I had to trust that the carabiner was holding my harness to the figure 8 through which the rope would slide. 

These items in which I placed my trust can be likened to trusting God who is the secure anchor in the mountain and doesn’t move.

The ropes are like the Savior keeping me tethered to God, the anchor. The harness and figure 8 can be likened to connecting me to the Savior, through which, if I trust, will strengthen me and bring me to God, the Father. 

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Article written by Lisa Peterson, office manager at Life Changing Services.

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