When I created my Year of New list last year of all the things I wanted to try to do in the next year – things I’d never done before – I put indoor rock climbing on my list. I can’t even really tell you why. It just seemed like something fun to learn, something way out of my normal range of activities. I finally got around to doing it this past week.
Happily, I was able to find a friend to go with me, so the two of us met up at Crag X climbing gym in Victoria to take their beginner course ($59; 2.5 hours) one evening. I must admit, I was a little nervous. The sweaty body smell that assaulted my senses when I walked in the door was a bit off-putting, and the oh-so-tiny shoes that are supposed to hurt your feet (we were told) felt a little uncomfortable. I took a size 7.5 when normally my shoes (these days – my feet have shrunk a bit in the last two or three years, I have no idea why) are about an 8 or an 8.5. The gym was pretty packed full of people, but I tried not to look around and assess what the others there were doing in case watching them would make me even more nervous!
Being part of a small class of four (we were with two other people we didn’t know) and having two instructors attend us was a great thing as a beginner. I felt safe that one of the instructors would be watching and helping my friend and I the whole time we were there. After taking the first turn as belayer, it came time for me to be the one to climb up the wall while my friend belayed me below. My heart was racing! I don’t know if I was scared because I was high off the ground, or if I was scared because I was high off the ground and clinging to tiny ledges jutting out from a completely vertical wall with only a harness and a rope and a friend down below to break my fall. I suppose my fear was irrational, as my friend was completely competently helping me (under the instructor’s watchful eye), so I really didn’t need to worry about anything. But climbing can be a dangerous sport, too, if you don’t take safety precautions, and the logical part of my brain inside was saying, you might still need to worry a little about this. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last that long and I got a bit more comfortable each time I ventured onto the wall. I really started to enjoy it, although it was tiring. We learned how to belay using two different types of systems and also tried a little bouldering, and learned some climbing techniques.
The final thing I did was try to hang off of the holds in the upper cave, which was really me trying to hang upside down like a spider and move around that way, hanging my own body weight from the ceiling. It didn’t work! The tall, lithe people that I watched navigate the cave ahead of me made upside-down climbing look really easy, but it totally wasn’t the case for me. I was able to move one hand to a different position and then immediately fell off! (So much for the slight bit of confidence I gained while scaling the vertical walls down below!)
It was very cool to enter this other little world in Victoria that I knew existed but had never been a part of. Now I’m not sure that I’m actually going to become a climber and do it seriously and all the time, but I’m glad I tried it and think someday it might be fun to take Chelsea and see if she’ll enjoy it. (Kids have no fear, right?) It might even be something fun to do as a family.
And maybe someday I’ll actually be able to move a hand and a foot while hanging upside down!