Indoor Rock Climbing

We were at lunch a little while ago and speaking to friends who:
a) have learned to sail and went on a holiday sailing their own yacht
b) were going on an adventure trip to the Costa del Sol involving outdoor rock climbing and bouldering
c) did sculling and rowing in crazy -10’C water
and things like that and on hearing that we participate in no such adventures, they invited us to go indoor rock climbing with them because it’s a regular activity that they do.

Tony was excited.  Apparently it’s something he used to do a lot and enjoyed but he hadn’t gone because I wasn’t into it.  WTF?  I had no idea.  He’d never mentioned it to me before!  If he had, I’ve forgotten…

So, I agree to go.  I’m definitely not going to be the reason why someone doesn’t do something.  Except I’m not exactly the sporty type and I’m scared of heights.  I agree but spend the next 2 weeks in trepidation, wondering why he doesn’t just go by himself.  I think you need pairs (because someone has to belay while the other climbs) so reluctantly, I don’t cancel or excuse myself, otherwise he wouldn’t have a partner.

Now, I’ve been indoor rock climbing before – a total of twice.  Once about 20 years ago and another about 17 years ago.  I neither enjoyed it nor hated it but I do remember being shit scared when I got past a certain height on the wall and had a hard time letting the wall go and trusting the rope on the way down and I was very sore the next day, both times.

“You have to do a test” our friend told us.  “When you get there, you have to know how to tie a figure 8 knot.  It’s easy, just look it up on YouTube.”

So the day before we were meant to go rock climbing, that’s what I did.  I looked up a figure 8 knot and learned how to do it using our earphone wires.  Sweet.  All set.

We turn up at the centre and the first and only question at the front is “Are you competent climbers?”  Tony immediately and confidently says “Yes.”  I shit myself and just stare at her, I hate lying but she takes his answer to mean the both of us and tells us both to go inside.  Phew!  Now all I have to do is tie the knot.

The guy arrives, introduces himself and says, “OK, so I’ve got to test you guys.  So first of all, put this on and come over to the ropes.”

He hands us each a harness.  OMG I felt like that one time I tried water skiing and put the wetsuit on backwards because I’d never worn a wet suit before in my life.  Super embarrassing.  The harness was just as foreign to me.  Just a bunch of straps.  I stared at that harness thinking “Do not embarrass yourself. Put it on the right way.”  I actually wasn’t sure if I’d done it properly but it felt comfortable enough.  So I figured it was right.

I walk over to the ropes. “Now tie yourself in” he said.  SO… I take the rope and pretend that I know what I’m doing even though I’ve never done this before.  I trust in YouTube.  I feed the rope through the loop on my harness and start to do the figure 8 knot.  I’m pretty much at it for about 5-10 mins (it could have been less than 10 mins but it felt like AGES).  I had to take it out and do it over and over and over because I either got it wrong, upside down, too short or something.  I FINALLY get it done.  It looks beautiful just like the one I saw on YouTube  and I’m way proud of myself.
“Yes!” I think, “I’ve done it! I’ve passed.”  Phew!  I show the guy my beautifully tied knot with a big grin.

He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  I think he was getting frustrated watching me get it done and just relieved that I’d finally sorted it.  “Now clip yourself in” he says.  Huh?  Clip myself in? Where?  To what?  He hands me a carabiner and I stare at it because I don’t know where to clip it.  “Do you know what this is?”
My answer “Yes” which is true.  I know what it is.
“Do you know what to do with it?”
My answer “Umm.. yes”.  I take it and I clip it to the loop in my harness (actually not knowing if this is what I’m supposed to do with it) and then wonder what I’m supposed to clip into.  He hands me another gadget and says “Here. put this on.”
I stare back at him and say “Ummm…”
“Do you know what..”  NOPE
“Have you..” NOPE
“So you..” NOPE  NOPE NOPE.
I managed to wing it that far but this thing was beyond me and I wasn’t going to pretend with this one.  I don’t know what it’s called but it was the gadget for belaying except I really had no idea what it was when I saw it and had no idea how to thread the rope through it.

Needless to say, had the test been purely on tying the figure 8 knot and untimed, I would have passed but there was more to it than just a knot and so I failed my test.  I felt horrible until I found out that Tony failed too.  He didn’t even tie his knot properly.  Neither of us double backed our harnesses and although he clipped himself in, his belaying skills weren’t up to scratch.  WELL… that was fun! And, because we failed, we weren’t allowed to climb.  I didn’t care… any reason not to do it was enough reason for me!

But Tony still wanted to go and looked so disappointed.  So I told the guy our friends were inside and he said we could climb if our friends “supervised” us.  So, we all signed off the waiver form to say that they were supervising and we were aware that this could result in death and off we went to do some rock climbing.

The test was actually the most eventful part of the experience I would say.  The rest was pretty meh.  Surprisingly I climbed up quite easily and reached the top on all my attempts.  I was doing the easiest level, 4.   I just had mini panic attacks when I had to come down.  I never looked down.  I tried once and I couldn’t see anything but the wall (because it jutted out just below where I was) but that was enough for me.  Staring at the wall was the best thing I could do to stop any fear from creeping up on me.  I didn’t need to see just how high I was from above.  I could see how high it was when on the ground, by how much my neck hurt constantly looking up at other climbers!

That was it really.  I didn’t really go up the wall that many times.  Maybe 4 or 5 and I spent the rest of the time tying myself in over and over to practice that and I practiced belaying too.  Tony went up a few more times and did a climb using an auto-belay.  We gave bouldering a shot too.  I managed 2 climbs on the boulder and that was it, my arms felt like falling off.  After that, it was all over and we had pizza.

In the end it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it was going to be.  I wasn’t as fearful as I expected to be either.  I thought it was alright but nothing so awesome that it makes me want to go back either.  I suppose if Tony wants to go back, I wouldn’t be jumping up and down about it but I’d go with him.  Afterall, I know how to belay and tie myself in now so it’s all good!

To be honest, I never ever had to get tested on tying myself in before and I don’t recall ever having to tie myself in!! I have no idea how I managed in the past.  I would have remembered having to thread all those ropes if I had to get tied in for each and every climb.  I can only think that maybe someone else tied me in every time?  Maybe it was all clips?  So weird.

Another difference was that in my first 2 attempts, I always did “rainbow climbs” ie.  I never picked levels, I just used which ever holds there were, no matter what colour, to get up the wall.  This time, however, I stuck with the level and the colour and I did alright.

2 notable differences between the previous times and this time were that first of all, I wasn’t as panicked and clinging to the wall as much as before and secondly, I wasn’t sore the next day.

It must be the yoga.  It has to be.  Flexibility in the hips, strength in the legs and fingers and the ability to breathe at times when I would normally panic are all things I know I developed through my yoga practice.

It is a bizarre feeling to know that I can do now, things I couldn’t do in the past – that I’m actually more physically capable in my older years than I was in my youth.

Now I wonder what other things I can do because of  yoga.  Since rock climbing’s not so scary anymore, perhaps I’ll finally learn how to ride a bike.


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