Saturday, May 5, 2012

Climbing, Then and Now

Then I walked into the gym and was overwhelmed by people everywhere.  I didn't know where to stand to stay out of the way, because hello! People dropping down from above!

Now the chaos makes sense. You still have to watch for people coming down, but it's much easier to tell when and where they're coming from.

Then I struggled to make sense of my rented harness and I wore my rented shoes with socks.  I had no idea that real climbers generally went barefoot in their shoes (but the socks are still a good idea in rented shoes if you ask me!)

Now I get out my harness and I know when it feels right and which loops I want which gear on (though I have limited gear, but I know where I want it). I do climb without socks, and I have to decide which of my 2 pairs of rock shoes is most appropriate for what I'm climbing.

Climbing shoes- awful for walking, great for climbing

Then, I was a little apprehensive about heights.

Now, I'm a little apprehensive about heights. (Okay, so not everything changes.)

Then I didn't care in the slightest about technique or climbing a route "cleanly" (no rests, no falls, no cheating by getting help from the rope or from an extra hold from a nearby route). I was just happy if I made it to the top.

Now I am just starting to learn about technique from a class I'm finishing up, and I can't wait to see how much it helps me in getting on more difficult routes.

Then I climbed a 5.2 and a 5.6*, and I was too worn out (more mentally than physically) to do any more.

Now I climb 5.9's and I've even done a couple of 5.10's.  I haven't climbed a 5.10 cleanly yet, but give me a chance with this new stuff I'm learning and we'll see.

Then I had to depend on someone else to set climbs out on the rock, so I couldn't climb outside except when certain people invited me.

Now I can lead climb**, so I can get out there with anyone else (though I don't think I'd want to do too any lead climbs over 5.6, and I haven't tried a 5.6 yet).

Then I didn't know exactly why I was going to try it, and I didn't really get why it was that exciting.  I don't like adrenaline, but I wanted to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone.

Now I know that I love it, because it's a physical and mental challenge.  It takes me completely away from any work stresses, any frustrations about other aspects of life.  You can't think about those, because you have to think about what you're doing. Done correctly, there's little adrenaline involved in the type of climbing I do.

The thing that I love the most about climbing is that I have learned what an awesome thing that it is to fall trying.  Every time that I try a route that I think might be too difficult, but I try anyway, I always feel successful if I fall trying.  It doesn't matter if I make it to the top.  It matters if I gave it my all while I tried.  Some routes, I give up.  I look at the next hold and don't see any way that I can make it, so I let go and get lowered.  That leaves a bitter taste. But if I see that hold, and go for it, even if I can't hold on and fall, it is such an exhilarating feeling to have given it my all. And sometimes I surprise myself and make it. There is nothing like the feeling of topping out on a route that you've been trying to get for a long time and finally succeed, or making it when you didn't think you would. Whether I make it or not, I come back stronger and tend to climb farther the next time.

I love climbing, and I can't believe that it was only a year ago today that I tied onto my very first rope to start the journey. And, cheesy as it may be to admit, climbing has brought something into the rest of my life that I can't quite define, but maybe mostly just that it has pushed out the limits of what I think is possible.

A friend top roping a route I led.
(The proportions are off; she wasn't that far away.)
*The 5 refers to the fact that it is a technical route that requires a harness and rope. The number after the decimal refers to the level of difficulty of the climb. Moderate to good climbers are in the 5.10 range (which can be further broken down into letters, e.g. 5.10a, 5.10b, etc.) Really good climbers get into 5.11, 5.12. If you make it to 5.14 (which I believe is currently the highest), you are dealing with folks that do it for money and have their pictures on magazines.

**I do sport climbing, which means that I climb on routes that already have bolts set into the rock. Someone has to go up first to get the rope to the top and set the anchor.  Then people climb on top rope. I still like to climb with better climbers than myself because then they lead harder stuff and I can top rope 5.8's and 9's and some 10's.

1 comment:

  1. You have come SO FAR in a year!
    I'll bet it is super-exhilirating when you finally finish the climb after falling a few times ... its got to be an amazing adrenaline rush!