The Pine Pulse... The road to the top is seldom smoothAt the top of what I assumed was the first flight of stairs ascending to the Queen of Peace bell tower in Cloquet last week, my guide suddenly bowed out. It was then that I noticed a tall wooden ladder that would take me farther up. “Is it like this all the way up from here?” I asked my guide casually, as if I relished climbing wooden ladders in lightning-damaged old buildings.
By: Jana Peterson, The Pine Journal
At the top of what I assumed was the first flight of stairs ascending to the Queen of Peace bell tower in Cloquet last week, my guide suddenly bowed out. It was then that I noticed a tall wooden ladder that would take me farther up.
“Is it like this all the way up from here?” I asked my guide casually, as if I relished climbing wooden ladders in lightning-damaged old buildings.
“Yep, there’s several ladders,” the man said. “So, I’ll leave you to it,” he said cheerfully as he scampered away.
I was climbing up to see damage that occurred when lightning hit the tower on Aug. 27. A Duluth News Tribune reporter was already up there with someone surveying the damage, so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to make the journey up and down.
Except ladders just aren’t my thing.
Resolved to face my fears, I strapped my camera around my shoulder, shoved my reporter’s notebook and pen in the back pocket of my jeans, took a deep breath and climbed.
The first ladder was OK. As I congratulated myself, I got a look at the next one. It was much longer and somehow left the climber much more vulnerable. I stopped to weigh the pros and cons of completing the mission.
I could hear voices up above and to stall, I called, “Is it worth climbing up to see?”
They made some joke and the reporter called that he was coming down. So as he made his way down ladder three, I summoned the courage to hike ladder two, mainly to get it over with before he could see my fright.
We met on the landing in-between as my knees actually shook slightly, and the contractor asked if I’d be able to make it to the top.
“You know it’s easier to going up than coming back down,” he warned congenially.
“Yep,” I replied looking up yet again. I decided having made it that far, I might as well try.
So he went first and I followed, but once I got to the top of ladder three, suddenly I was rooted to the final step. It wasn’t due to the small lookout at the top, or no-barrier ease with which one could fall off. I realized that part didn’t bother me as much as getting back onto the ladder from the platform.
And as much as I wanted to get up there, something in my brain forbid it.
So I stood on that ladder, somehow talking to this man and taking photos from knee level. He gave me a few tips for the journey down – only think of where your foot goes next and keep three points (hands and feet) in contact with the ladder at all times.
Because I was already in position, descending the first ladder wasn’t bad. Lengthy ladder two was the bane of my existence.
I believe the contractor was nothing but encouraging but I was too scared to hear a word he said.
I realized I was sweating. A bit profusely for confined spaces.
After what seemed like an eternity, I made it down without plunging to my death.
Although I realized I still needed a guide to get out of the building, at that point I was ready to follow the contractor nearly anywhere. As we parted, I thanked him and wished him luck fixing the broken tiles on the outside of the tower.
I said I’d check back to see if I could get a photo of him doing the work.
From the ground, of course.