For week 6 of my 52 Things adventure, I went indoor rock climbing at the Climbing Center at River Sports. The first Monday of each month is “Women’s Night” (it’s cheaper and there are snacks), so I figured I’d jump on the opportunity to scale some walls. I dragged my good friend Amy along with me.
Upon arrival, we were given a climbing harness and shoes. The harness consists of a waist belt, leg loops, and a belay loop. It looks extremely flattering on you while you are climbing. Not really. The belay is the only thing keeping you from plummeting to your death; it is the rope system that attaches and secures you to the belayer (your climbing partner). The climber is attached to the belay with a carabiner and rope, which is secured with a figure-eight loop, and the belayer is attached with a belay device. The belay device locks the rope in place and prevents the climber from falling a great distance. Hopefully.
We received a quick tutorial from Rick at the climbing center to make sure we wouldn’t kill one another, because, as he explained, we are “precious.” He taught us how to properly secure ourselves and how to run though a pre-climb safety checklist. During the tutorial he told me that I was to do a “test fall” to make sure I was properly secured. Being a lawyer and quite literal, I immediately dropped to the floor. This, of course, was not what he meant. I was supposed to climb to a certain place on the wall and then fall. Apparently, I was the first person to ever do that during the instructions. At least it was worth a good (and well deserved) laugh at my expense.
I should mention at this point that I have a fear of heights. [Insert short joke here.] Unfortunately, I often forget about this fear. I don’t forget that I am afraid of spiders, bears, and the like . . . but somehow I always forget that I am quite terrified of tall places. (For example, my favorite thing to do when I visit a new city is to go to the highest spot–usually the top of a church–to take pictures. I always think this is a wonderful idea until I reach the summit. It isn’t the looking down that bothers me, it is the looking up and realizing just how high I am that gives me vertigo. When I visited Florence and climbed the 463 steps to the top of Il Duomo, I was convinced that there was going to be an earthquake and the top of the 600-year-old structure was going to come crashing to the ground. . . . Nobody said fears had to be reasonable.)
When I started my first climb I was all giggles, just like with each of my other New Things. However, once I realized what I was doing and that I needed to concentrate, I got serious and focused. My short stature did get in the way of my climbing at times, as I progressed towards the top reaching some of the holds proved a little difficult. On the other hand, the upshot to being tiny is that you have really small hands and feet, which made using the smaller holds to pull myself up easier. Occasionally, I managed to reach for a loose rock. Grabbing it for support only to have it spin out from under my grip was a little disconcerting. I would then have to figure out an alternate path up the wall. In all, I did 4 climbs with (what seemed like) varying degrees of difficulty. It might have just been me, but it always seemed that the last two feet were the most difficult to climb . . . nevertheless my stubbornness and determination won out in the end.
When I wasn’t climbing, I was the belayer. This meant I was responsible for making sure my friend didn’t die (she is clearly very trusting). When it was her turn to do a practice fall I was not prepared. I was yanked off of the ground and thrown into the rock wall. It was unexpected and disorienting. Apparently we had a weight imbalance. (I should note that my friend is quite lovely and slender, it’s just that most everyone on the planet is taller than me and therefore weighs more than me). From that moment forward I was anchored to the ground. No harm was done other than a wonky elbow for me on the next climb and perhaps terrifying my friend momentarily.
I had a wonderful time climbing and hope to try it with a real rock wall once the weather warms up. The whole process was a lot easier than I expected, and if I can do it, anyone can.