Living unfrozen on the side of a cliff
I’m dangling, completely helpless, 153 feet off the ground. And the man I’m hanging with is even more helpless.
It all started three days before Christmas in 2001.
Nathan had a perfect life: a beautiful wife of four years, two perfect young children, a college degree, a successful career. Everything he had always dreamed of.
Then, at 26 years old, Nathan found himself barreling down a ski slope toward a huge jump. He hit the jump. Miscalculated his trajectory. Soared 30 feet into the air. Slammed down on his head.
He ended up trading his skis for a wheelchair.
He and his wife embraced their new life with the motto “We Believe.” With optimism, hard work, and perseverance, he returned to work full time. He was able to drive again. He was getting stronger and regained nearly half of his body functions.
He was confident he would walk again.
One year later, Nathan fell gravely ill. He was rushed to the hospital unconscious. While receiving x-rays he fell off the gurney. Neck break number two, this time with even more neurological damage.
His motto this time was “Bring it on!”
And bring it on, life did. All the muscle movement he had worked so hard to regain the first time did not come back.
Nathan fell into a deep depression. His first accident paralyzed him physically. His second one paralyzed him even worse: mentally.
He lost his job, friends, self-esteem, and almost his marriage.
Slowly but surely, he crawled out of that dark hole and found meaning in life again. As he puts it, he moved from paralysis to progress and began living “unfrozen.”
“Being physically frozen,” Nathan says, “is nothing compared to being frozen by fear mentally.”
He devoted his life to teaching others how to become “unfrozen.” He started a speaking career. He went skydiving, snow skiing, water skiing, river rafting, and snorkeling and completed a half triathlon.
I hear him tell his story at a seminar in January of 2016. I meet him afterward and casually mention that, if he’s interested, I could help him add another feat to his list. I leave the event not expecting to ever see him again.
A week later he calls me. “So when do you want to do it?” he asks.
“Yeah, I’m serious. Let’s do it!”
We start planning. A date is set: Saturday, April 30th. I recruit a bunch of friends and we start working on the logistics.
He and his family (wife and four kids, ages 16, 15, 11, and 9) fly from Virginia to southern Utah.
The big day arrives. We all pile into cars and drive to Cougar Cliffs. My friend sets up the rope. We wriggle him into the special full-body harness we got for him. Strap a helmet on his head. Wish him luck.
We tie both of us to the end of a rope, with me hanging just below him.
I drag him backwards off a 153-foot cliff until we’re both free hanging, completely at the mercy of my friend holding the rope at the top, controlling our descent.
A few minutes later, quadriplegic motivational speaker Nathan Ogden has officially added rappelling to his growing list of unlikely adventures.
What I love about Nathan is that he leaves the rest of us with no excuses. He may be paralyzed, but he’s not frozen as we all often get. Imprisoned by our fears. Shackled by our doubts. Stuck inside our heads. Trapped inside the box of societal voices and opinions.
Life gets fun when we get unfrozen. We just have to step off that edge…
Connect with Nathan on Facebook and tell him you read about his rappelling adventure. He’ll love it!
Also, here are a few pictures of our experience: