The Short Story Behind This Photograph
Back in 2016, according to the picture’s metadata, I took this photo of a friend somewhere in Wales. As with many things we carry through life, it has a particular sentimental value to me. Which I will now exploit for a writing prompt.
During university, I joined a climbing club and went on one of their weekend trips. Near the end we went to this abandoned quarry and when we reached the place we were going to climb, I knew I wouldn’t be getting involved. The wall they’d be climbing was around a few meters away from a sheer drop and I was never a fan of heights. A fact I discovered on my first day joining the club and a fact I seem to forget often.
As we were due to be there for a few hours, I looked around for something else to explore and I saw a staircase leading up the side of another part of the quarry and, from a distance, I could see a guardrail that followed the stairs up. I asked a couple of my friends, who also weren’t climbing, to come along and explore it with me. It seemed safe enough and less dangerous than hanging out near the edges of a cliff.
The thing is, and I need to reiterate. This was an abandoned quarry. Guardrails? Really? As we made our way up the staircase I noticed, far too late and around halfway up the climb, that this ‘guardrail’ was actually abandoned and disused equipment that from a far looked like a guardrail, but up close wasn’t even attached to the staircase and was twisting its way down another sheer drop.
I was now in the same position I had tried to avoid, standing a meter away from a fatal fall. Now, to be clear, I wasn’t in any danger. Well, if someone shoved me or if Zeus summoned a localized hurricane specifically targeted at me, I may have fallen to my death. Alas, those were the thoughts that gave way to the next set of events.
Suddenly aware of my mortality, the ‘raging’ winds and my generally all-encompassing-yet-surprisingly-easy-to-ignore fear of death. I descended into a mini panic-attack. Crying, yelling and everything in between. Not the most gracious look, but one I have pulled off many times.
Now, I remember little, but my two friends were there and were quite supportive as I melted down. Even though they probably wanted to keep going since, again, we weren’t actually in any danger at all. They took their time to reassure me and even offered to go back down.
However, my friend (the one in the picture) said one thing that stuck out to me and still is in the back of my mind. I have lost the precise words to time, but it was something like this:
“We can go back down, but are you sure? I think what’s going to happen is that if we go back down you’re going to regret the fact that we went back down, because you know there’s nothing to be afraid of. As long as you know you will not regret it then we can go back down.”
In honesty, I remember it being shorter, punchier and less AI grammar-checked than that. But, history is written by the person currently writing it. Their words resonated with me because I genuinely wanted to finish the climb up the stairs. The only thing that was stopping me was well, me.
So I crawled. I couldn’t bring myself to stand but if I kept crawling up, I’d be closer to the top than if I sat still. Eventually and with the support of my friends we made it to a plateau and away from the drop. I think I ran into the plateau just to get as far away from the edge as possible.
We explored the plateau and found more abandoned buildings and equipment and wide steps leading to two pillars which from a certain angle, with the sun setting, made an excellent photo opportunity.
Unfortunately, when it was my turn to be in the photo, my stance and the framing was a lot less marketable.
Still, I see this photo as a reward for choosing to do something, even though I found it scary and I refer to this lesson every so often. It reminds me to try things I’m unsure or afraid of, sometimes. Or at least understand why I’m unsure or afraid of those things. As well as the value of having support to fall back on.
I mean, I don’t always stick to this mantra and things could always go badly if you choose to stay the course. I mean, there are people who backed out of climbing Everest and probably regret it, but the number of ghosts up there may have regretted choosing to go on.
But whatever, I like the photo lol.
Thanks for reading
P.S. I surprisingly didn’t panic on the way back down, in fact it no longer felt scary at all.