So a little thing you may not know about me is, despite having been an Air Navigator for 12 years, I am terrified of heights. Like, I don’t like getting on the step stool kind of terrified of heights. It’s irrational, I know, but it’s a real thing. Full disclosure, I have done rappelling, zip-lining and parasailing as part of my military training in the mid 90s but I never actually propelled myself upwards, so yes this is really my first time rock climbing.
My beloved and 2 teenage boys have really enjoyed indoor rock climbing since Junction Climbing opened here in London last spring. I kept saying I would go, but honestly, I also kept putting it off. It was even one of my goals for 2014. I’ve decided that I’m letting this count.
To make it more (or less?) weird we had gathered a group of friends that do active things and organized to go on a Sunday afternoon. Mallory offered to belay alongside my partner and oldest son so us newbies could try lots of walls. I was joined by Jessica and Brent, both long distance runners and really nice humans. Brent had been to this facility once before and Jessica was brand new, like me. Bike Rally David came along to observe and he promises the next time he’s there he will climb.
We got our loaner harnesses, I cracked a joke that I’d never worn a harness in public before. I was nervous so my humour was sitting at 12 year old level. I opted to use my running shoes, mistake #1. Jessica chose to rent the climbing shoes and later reported that they made a big difference.
We got our orientation from a nice fellow who got us to try out the autobelays by climbing up the easiest wall (known as the birthday party wall) just a few feet then jumping off. Jessica went up and hesitated to jump off but then did so with lots of awesomeness. My turn I kept scrambling at the wall with my fingers, not wanting to really let go. I finally did by just throwing my hands around the rope, squealing with my eyes closed. I flopped harmlessly to the ground and asked the staff person if I would get kicked out for making too much noise. He replied that lots of people make lots of noises.
We got an intro to the bouldering sections and then went on our way. Mistake #2 was trying to get in the beginner area on a Sunday afternoon. there were lots of tiny humans, blissfully unaware of the overhead danger I posed. I stuck to a harder but less busy route, Mallory belayed for me a few times but I couldn’t get more than a few feet off the ground. I simply didn’t have the leg strength to lift up onto a hold that was mid thigh height.
Jessica tried a bunch of different walls and loved it. Mallory demonstrated her approach to a bunch of walls that had autobelay. She would push off like an aerial acrobatic, very Crique du Soleil, and glide down. Mallory’s easy going approach was a big help in me staying calm. This was way harder than I had thought it would be, psychologically and physically. I realized the months of my family climbing without me meant they were well along their way to being highly skilled. They went up seemingly impossible routes with skill and ease. David pointed out that most people climbing were lean, sinewy types like my partner and sons. He was right. I looked around and I was the doughiest person in the building. It was humbling and after a handful of tries my forearms were too tired to do more and I’d only gotten a few feet off the floor. Bummer. My expectation was that I could do at least one route so that was humbling.
I was tired when I got home and a bit embarrassed. I even had to take a nap! Will I do it again? Hheck ya I will! Sam said if I blogged about it she’d come try it too so TAG, you’re it! Let’s go climbing 🙂
(Editor’s note: Gulp. Here we go!)