I purchased a Groupon back before Christmas for an Introductory Class in Rock Climbing and only finally got around to taking it this past week. When a girlfriend asked me to do this with her a year ago, I really wasn’t interested – climbing up a rock wall just didn’t excite me. However, after she had been doing it for about a year, she started climbing places here in North Carolina, like Pilot Mountain and Moore’s Wall, and THAT looked exciting! I changed my tune quickly.
Another girlfriend and I joined 4 others for our 2 hour class this past Wednesday. While waiting for our class to begin, I marveled at the sheer number of kids crawling all over the walls like spider monkeys. Much like my experience with skiing, I was reminded that kids just have no fear (and, weighing less, are probably better able to lift their own body weight up the wall).
In the class we learned about climbing routes, different belay techniques, and bouldering. We spent most of this class (1.5 hours) learning how to get into a harness, how to tie a figure 8 knot and proper top rope belay technique. After successfully demonstrating that we knew how to use the equipment correctly, we finally headed out to the climbing area. Each pair took turns climbing and belaying while the instructor supervised and then, the climber of the pair switched with the belayer, so that everyone got a chance to do both.
I chose to climb first, just to go ahead and get it over with. Sometimes I just need to do something I’m nervous about because the more I think about it, the more I’ll psych myself out. Honestly, I broke into a cold sweat. My feet, bound in ill-fitting climbing shoes, began to cramp up almost immediately. But I just kept moving up the wall. Once I reached the top, it was nerve wracking to let go and trust that the rope would hold as I rappelled down, but I just reminded myself that I have much larger distance to rappel come October, so I better get used to it sooner rather than later!
After the class was over, we were allowed to climb as long as we liked. My girlfriend and I both took turns climbing and belaying for about 45 minutes longer. By the end, I was much more comfortable letting go to rappel down and my feet were no longer cramping up.
I was reminded of the way I felt when I was learning to SCUBA dive. As long as you are paying attention, using equipment properly, and taking pains to be safe, there really isn’t much chance for bodily injury. But…wow…the potential for harm if you don’t take these things seriously…and it’s so easy to just get complacent.
My next step will to get Belay Certified where I’ll have to demonstrate that I know the correct technique by the instructor actually falling (once announced, once unannounced). That’s a bit unsettling.
Things like bouldering and lead climbing still look like they’ll never be within my reach. However, I’m on my way. While I may have learned the basics, just like with skiing and SCUBA diving, this will just continue to be another ongoing,life long learning experience.
So who out there is an avid rock climber? Climbed anything super cool that I need to check out (eventually)?