Learning to Walk, Vertically

26 06 2009

You know how when girls are learning a new sport, they always say, “I’m not doing this for my boyfriend, I’m doing it for myself,” but you know they are lying? Well, I’m going to skip that spiel and come out with it: I am only learning to rock climb for my boyfriend. Sure, there’s value in it for me, like these awesome guns I’m sculpting (yeah, I said guns), and getting over this debilitating fear of heights. But when you get down to it, I’m really learning to climb so that I’ll be able to see my obsessed bf on the weekends.

Here’s how it goes down:

Week one in the C-Gym, I thought I was the strongest woman alive. All the chicks wear these tight fitting work out shirts with their rippling back muscles hanging out – I thought I was one of them. Then, I got up on this 5.6 (which in ski-terms means a Green, or maybe the bunny hill). About 10 feet up, I freaked out, started crying and clutched to the wall like a sticky mouse trap. It wasn’t good.

As of today, I have been “climbing” for three months. I am on 5.10s at the gym (which equals a Black Diamond), and 5.7s and 5.8s, outside. I still can’t get much higher than 80 feet before the complete panic sets in, but you know, I get through it. They say the more you do it, the less scared you get. Not sure if that’s accurate, but I’ll take their word for it.

The thing about climbing is that it’s just like walking, but vertically, which I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to do. If we had suckers on our finger tips, I might feel differently, but hey, you know, we don’t. It’s not natural to be on a ledge (tied to a rope of course, Mom) and to walk backwards over this said ledge and be okay with it. Like, hey, just walk on backwards, never mind the 100ft drop below, the rope that is 1-inch in diameter will hold you.

I freak out about the rope, the harness, the bolt, the protection, the belayer. There are so many factors that have nothing to do with me that I have to trust with my life. But maybe that’s just it.

I climbed the 1st Flatiron in Boulder about a month ago. It’s like a steep walk on all fours, so death doesn’t feel as eminent. At the end, you have to free rappel – lower yourself by the rope, free hanging from the cliff. Fred went first and I broke down and sobbed the entire time he lowered himself leaving me at the top all alone. Then it was my turn. Normally, I would have frozen, cried, screamed and perhaps made him come back up to get me. But for some reason, on this particular day, I wiped my tears, turned around, and walked backwards over the cliff. I suggest you try it sometime.