It was only a year ago that I took my first rock climbing class. I had never been terribly interested in doing the indoor rock climbing thing but after a friend shared photos of her rock climbing at Pilot Mountain, I knew I wanted to do that so I needed to learn the basics first.
Climbing the “hard” line
Honestly, after my introductory class last March, I only went a handful of times. The rock climbing gym is always so crowded (even worse now since the only other rock climbing gym in the area closed), it’s not terribly convenient to get to, and if you don’t have the equipment, a simple visit to climb costs $25, which adds up quickly. I got a harness and climbing shoes for Christmas with the hope that I’d go more often but I literally cut the tags off my new equipment the night before heading to Pilot Mountain for my first honest-to-goodness rock climbing adventure.
Choosing to go with Raleigh Parks and Rec for a guided trip rather than the more expensive option of going on one of the monthly trips run by the local rock climbing gym, we set out early one Saturday morning for the 2.5 hour trip to Pilot Mountain. Pilot Mountain is one of those anomalies that jut out of hilly land, still a good 45 minutes away from the rest of the NC mountains. The mountain itself is quite distinctive with a stone “knob” on top (which you are NOT allowed to climb).
50 Feet of rock to climb (this is the “hard” line)
Although the trip was in late March, we were experiencing a bit of a cold snap and as we drove up the mountain, it began to sleet. As I had dressed in my usual hiking/climbing mountain gear of capri hiking pants, I was frozen through until the sun finally broke through around noon. Once the instructors had the lines up and running, we began taking turns climbing and belaying. I was the first one up the second line, which we called the “easy” line for much of the day. Although it had a tricky start, it was manageable and after the first 10 feet of rock got to lots of great hand holds and holes to work with.
I quickly realized the biggest difference between climbing real rock and an indoor rock wall was that with an indoor rock wall, you can see the holds from 40 feet down. Maneuvering to find holds in the real rock proved to be an exercise in problem solving. Often I would finally get a good hold only to push up further and scrabble scrabble scrabble for the next hold and have to give up and come back down. But I enjoyed it. Finally finding the next hold and moving up was a small moment of success!
I also fell for the first time. I had discovered that I wouldn’t take chances in the indoor rock wall because I was afraid of falling. I would find myself not going for the hold because I thought I may fail. With the actual rock, I was going for whatever I could and sometimes that meant I fell too. After falling the first time, I felt more comfortable in knowing that falling wasn’t the worst thing to happen.
With the sleet earlier, the rock itself felt like ice and after about 10 minutes I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. It took 30 minutes or more to have the feeling come back in my finger tips.
Climbing the “easy” line
Later on I tried the “hard” line. I was the last to try and I had witnessed others in the group have difficulty with it so I just wanted to made it past the first 10 feet. After a good bit of work, I made it past the point that had given everyone trouble and considered myself a success.
The instructors set up a rappel line and we could climb the “easy” line up and out if we wanted to. I tried but was disappointed when I couldn’t get to the last little bit. I had used up all my energy getting to that point and couldn’t give it any more. I had to belay back down and then hike up to the top of the cliff to do my big of rappelling.
During our whole trip, I managed to only climb 3 times and help belay several times but I was beat and fell asleep around 9:30 that night. I was sore for days after.
So, I really liked it! I don’t think I’ll ever get into the tech of it; I just don’t have any interest in learning how to lead climb or putting in top rope anchors. I’d much rather just join a group and have the experts do it for me. Officially, like skiing and SCUBA, I will now have to go rock climbing at least yearly.
How about you? Do you enjoy rock climbing (inside or outside)? Are you super hard core and do the lead climbing, bouldering, and free climbing?