I went rock climbing... that's right *I* actually went rock climbing!
Monday, January 12, 2009
I actually went rock climbing! ME! I think I'm the most cautious, non-risk taker type person I know. My sister can't stand driving with me because I don't like to speed. I move slowly when going down a hill on a hike to make sure I have good footing. I'm a gym rat ie. I exercise inside, except when playing soccer. When I was younger I hated the high dive at our community swimming pool. I couldn't stand flying down a steep hill on a bike. I immediately put away my rollerblades that I wanted for Christmas one year after I fell for the first time. I didn't like skiing because it went too fast. All this sums up to me NOT being an adventurer.
My sister mentioned that my cousins were going rock climbing this weekend in North Carolina and I wanted to come along to see my cousins and to check it out. I figured if I got bored while they were climbing I'd go for a hike around the mountain. I never actually thought I'd climb. My biggest fear was my weight. Even though I've lost nearly 50 pounds I still thought I was too big. That the gear couldn't hold me or the Belayer couldn't hold my weight. My cousins assured me that they've seen men bigger than me rock climb and they held them just fine. they explained it was all friction holding me up if I fell.
After watching everyone take a turn they asked me if I was going. Again I was still hesitant but I had a friendly group of people around to urge me on. They assured me first that they had a harness to fit me and explained that my weight was not a factor. My sister and I share shoes. I was taught how to tie the figure 8 "life saving knot" and everything was checked and double checked. I was taught a few of the proper terms to use when climbing and then I was left to conquer the cliff.
I thought if I could just get to the first ledge about 15ft off the ground that would be cool. I would have felt like I accomplished something just doing that. Getting started was the hardest part. Trying to figure out where to place my hands and feet was a challenge and making that first push off the ground on to the rock was difficult. Finding the next place to plant my feet was just as challenging. But strangely it just got easier and all of a sudden I was at that first ledge!
So the only thing to keep doing was to keep going up! That was until I reached a certain point that I couldn't see a way over. Then I couldn't feel my fingertips anymore from the cold (which meant I couldn't even tell if I was gripping the rock properly or not) So I asked to be lowered down. But I still made it higher then I thought I could.
When I was finally on solid ground again I understood why people love this sport so much. It's not just physical, it's a tough mental challenge. You have to keep telling yourself you can go higher and push trough the challenges each rock creates. If your brain turns negative the rest of you shuts down as well.
My next attempt at the same climb I tried a different route but again I just couldn't seem to navigate myself beyond a certain point. Then I started looking down too many times instead of at the rock and got a bit spooked so I asked to be lowered down again.
Day 2... Everyone else tried repelling down a 100 Ft, and I didn't feel I was ready for that just yet. I was afraid that I wasn't going to get to climb because I couldn't find a harness that fit, but I finally found one. Again safety first everything was double checked. So I started to climb. I reach a point that was much higher than I did the day before (different rock but new heights). I got scared for a second but I kept telling myself I could keep going. I almost gave up at one point and asked to come down but my cousin who was belaying me told me to just take a break for a sec and hang out (literally) off the cliff. So I sat back for a minute suspended probably over 50 feet in the air, and took a good look at the rock. I found another route and started reaching for it when I lost my grip and swung out from the rock several feet. At this point my back was facing the rock and all I could see out in front of me was the valley of farm land as far as the eye could see. I wanted to come down immediately because that really scared me, but I had to accomplish turning myself around again. My cousin talked me through it and I was facing the cliff again to be lowered. When I got to the ground everyone was hugging me telling me how awesome I did and how high I climbed. My cousin who was belaying me hugged me and said he couldn't believe I was actually climbing. He told me he could tell I've been working out hard.
I wasn't angry at myself for not making it to the top again. I was shocked I made it as high as I did. I was shocked I even did this at all. I never ...ever...ever... thought I would rock climb. I was afraid of the activity itself, but my biggest fear... bigger than the heights or hurting myself (I have bruises all over my knees and elbows)... was my weight. But, I DID IT! And now all I can think about was when can I do it again!!
**Let me just end this blog with a few things.**
1. There are risks to rock climbing
2. This is not something you should run out and attempt with out help. You must take lessons or go out with experienced climbers who know their gear, how to properly set up and check and double check the set ups and the back ups. The gear will save your life and so will the trust in your climbing buddies. Safety is absolutely essential.
3. If you have taken consideration of all of the above, by all means then "On belay?...Belay on...CLIMB ON!"