Before We Fall

Emily Woodhouse Comment and Opinion

You’re clinging to an edge. You can feel the roughness of cold rock under your finger. The wind whips around the side of the mountain and rustles your hair.

You are suddenly very aware of how high you are, how sheer the edge is and where the floor is. Or, more to the point, just how far you’d fall before you hit it.

Humans are strange creatures.

No wait – not all those people who stay safe and cosy in their homes. But a few of us, a few of us are strange. We get a crazy sort of elation from putting ourselves in to danger. Or near danger, on the edge.


Whether it’s clinging to the side of a mountain, jumping off it on a large piece of elastic, or going much higher and dispensing with the safety cord altogether…

Or some other kind of fake danger that should be perfectly safe unless a freak accident happens. Or you muck up.


Whatever it is, it doesn’t make logical sense. Presumably, as animals, we’ve all got some sense of self preservation. So why would we deliberately put ourselves out of our safe little lives, out of our comfort zones, onto the edge?

Well, I’m not going to pretend that I understand any of the -ologies behind it. All I know is the feeling: the rush of fear when you suddenly realise that an iron rung is the only thing between you and the 1000m tumble to the floor. And who knows who glued that in? But you trust the support and you trust yourself, because you’re living in the moment and that’s all you can do.

You push down the fear and pull up the courage to do it.

Is it for the hit of adrenaline? Or just the elation at the end, when it’s conquered? The feeling of freedom as you do it? Nothing else in the world matters. There are no deadlines, bills or debts. Everyday falls away. What’s left is you. Pure you.

Adventure can be escapism, let’s not lie about it. Everyone who’s taken a one week package holiday knows that. Just get me out of here and onto a beach. Deal with all the organising, I just want to leave. But for the adventurous, it takes a little more to get out of the ordinary. Perhaps lying around on the beach is too similar to sitting in an office?

An edge, a drop, that’s very different. Perhaps it’s the fear that does it as much as the unusual. The inbuilt human fear of falling that forces you to focus.

I think that’s why I like it.

I’m a thinker and getting caught up in the action is liberating. It gets me out of my head. Plus modern life pushes us more and more towards barely getting a pulse up. Never mind how long I seem to spend sitting down (says the girl who’s ideal day involves walking dawn until dusk).

Sitting seems to come hand in hand with mundane. So how about going somewhere you can’t sit down… like clinging for dear life off a near vertical rock face? Yeah, sounds like a great idea!

I guess we all fall eventually. But before we fall, it’s brilliant. And after? Well, maybe it’s still good too.