Although this site is called runbikeclimb, lately it might seem more like runbike-and-maybe-climb-eventually-if-we-get-around-to-it. Although we haven’t been shirking our climbing training, we’ve been delinquent about writing about it. We promised to share more regarding our first time climbing, and it’s time to make good!
When we arrived at the climbing gym for the first time, we received a lesson on how to tie into the rope and belay, or take up slack on the rope for another climber. (In many indoor gyms, the climbing routes are often called “top rope,” meaning that the rope is already anchored around a fixed point at the top of the route. Often this is not the case when climbing outdoors.) First, I belayed for Eyegirl and then for my work friend to demonstrate that I understood how it was done.
Then came my turn to climb. My friend from work was already quite experienced, so he belayed for me. After getting tied in, I turned back to look at him, “Are you sure this is going to work?” I was around 300 pounds and although I am terrible at estimating other people’s height and weight, I imagined that I was nearly double his size.
“Oh yeah, no problem,” he said. He clipped his harness to the ground so that if I fell, it wouldn’t lift him too far in the air. I was still worried, but he seemed confident, “You’ll be doing all the work, I’m just holding the rope.”
So I started climbing. Little did I know at the time, but that particular wall is actually slightly inclined away from you, making it much easier and more similar to climbing the stairs than a purely vertical wall, or worse yet, one that is inclined toward you. So, up I went. I probably would have chickened out and asked to come down if all of my group and the instructor weren’t watching to make sure my technique was OK. I got to the top and suddenly wished that we had done a test fall from a lower point.
How can he hold me? I thought, I’m so much heavier. But, my hands were feeling weak and I was starting to lose my grip. Here goes, I thought. I leaned back into a seated position and . . . everything was fine, of course! He lowered me down, and needless to say, Eyegirl and I were hooked from that day on. We tried a bunch of more difficult climbs that day, but I don’t think I made it to the top of any other route.
It’s a difficult feeling to describe, the sensation that comes with climbing so high off the ground. (Of course, still not nearly as high as what many “real” outdoor climbers do, but 20-30 feet feels high to us.) When I went to bed, I had sort of a “phantom” adrenaline rush of being high off the ground, similar to when you have been swimming all day and feel that you’re still in water. Now, Eyegirl and I are much less afraid of heights, but it’s still a great feeling to succeed in climbing a new route.
The next day at work, I was surprised to find that my forearms were so weak that the little cardboard folders I was carrying around felt heavy! Now that we climb semi-regularly, it feels like a great workout, but there is not much in the way of soreness or fatigue the next day. Happy climbing!
Here is a great article from REI that gives some good information on beginner climbing. Tune in next time for some tips on beginner climbing techniques!