I peer over the ledge and the dirt path is 100 meters below us, a straight vertical drop. My heart pounds in my chest. After a few minutes of stalling, local climbing guide Tereza Turecka eventually coaxes me to lean back and walk backwards off the ledge. I am terrified. My breath shortens and my hands shake as I slowly belay myself down. As the rope pulls through my fingers I inhale and try to remind myself that Turecka is above me with a backup system. Even if I somehow manage to let go of the rope, the backup rope will kick in. Halfway down, I start to settle in and despite my quivering legs, I crane my neck around to get a glimpse of the Athabasca River below us. Our guides from Rockaboo Mountain Adventures are well aware of potential newbie climber qualms and calm our nerves by preparing us to climb the wall we just rappelled down. This is the part I’d been eagerly waiting for—the chance to dig my fingers into the rock and get up high. Despite my terrible fear of heights, I still crave the stunning views and adrenaline rush of being among the mountain tops. Turecka and our other guide, Francois LaPlante, teach us how to tie knots, handle the rope and use verbal commands. We pull on each other’s harnesses to safety check them, and make sure our carabiners are locked tight. We’re climbing at Morro Slabs, a 15 minute drive from Jasper and a popular spot for rookie climbers. After I get over my initial fear of rappelling, I quickly learn how to climb using features in the rock to pull myself up. It’s tough going at first, and I spread eagle against the limestone wall more than a few times. “Put your foot straight into the rock, to gain more traction,” Turecka suggests. I’m using my limited arm strength and tiring quickly. As a long time speed skater, my legs have always been bigger and stronger than my arms—and it’s painfully obvious as I struggle to get up the wall. I barely make it a quarter of the way before stopping for a break. Turecka coaches me to use my core and legs, and look for good holds in the rock. “Most women don’t just power through. They think about their movements. What they don’t have in strength, they make up for in technique,” says Turecka. She says there are a lot of strong women climbers in Jasper and it’s important to find role models in the sport. Women often look at routes differently than men because of the difference in height and strength. “Climbing with other women is badass,” says Turecka. Turecka started climbing as a teenager in the Czech Republic, and her love for the sport grew when she moved to Canada four years ago. “It’s the adrenaline of getting to the top of a mountain,” says Turecka. Some of her favourite climbing spots are Syncline Ridge, Rock Gardens and Lost Boys. Syncline Ridge is a 150-metre-high limestone climbing area east of Jasper. According to what I can gather, it’s a great place for experienced climbers to expand their route-finding skills. I doubt I’ll be heading there anytime soon. Although it was no Syncline Ridge, my first experience top rope climbing certainly took my breath away. I even climbed to the top of the rock wall by the end of our lesson. I’ve never seen the Athabasca River from that perspective before, and it’s a beautiful way to experience Jasper. While I may not be cured of my fear of heights, the rush from climbing is enough to leave me anxious to get back on the rock again. And I’m lucky to have strong woman climbers like Turecka in Jasper paving the way for women who want to learn about the sport.