Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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Rock Climbing

I went climbing tonight for the first time in years. This time it was legal. I went down with a friend and his step-daughter to the Portland Rock Gym. After signing a waiver explaining all the various ways I would not sue them (though I was happy they made exceptions for negligence), I rented rock climbing shoes and a harness. I watched the girl make a fairly rapid climb to the top of one wall, fifty feet high, and then it was my turn.

First, I had to learn how to tie the rope on my harness, communicate with my belayer (the person who holds the other end of the rope down at the bottom), and then was ready to climb. The daughter -- who made it very clear that she was 13 years old in 15 hours and thus cannot be referred to as a 12 year old -- explained what I should do.

Daughter: This is your first climb and I recommend you do a free climb.
Me: That sounds like a great idea. What's a free climb?

A free climb is where you ignore the colored strips on the rocks which mark out trails of various difficulties and you just climb. So I did. There were a couple of dicey spots, but I made it to the top and then rappelled back down (basically a controlled fall). It was a bit scarier than I thought, but it was really easy. After they did a couple of climbs, they suggested I do another one, but this time I should follow one of the colored trails.

When you go rock climbing at this gym, rocks attached to the walls have colored strips on them. You read the designation on the bottom and it tells you the difficulty. I elected to do what is called a "5.7" climb. That's the easiest. I picked a wall with yellow strips going up and made sure to not touch any other rocks.

It was hard. Trying to figure out where your next handhold is going to be, how you're going to get your feet where you need them and then discovering that many handholds only leave room for your fingers is a daunting tasks. Were it not for the 40 pounds I've misplaced and the exercising I've been doing I never would have made it. At one point I actually thought I wouldn't make it. Because I didn't see one of the yellow strips and thus didn't realize that one useful rock was allowable for this climb. My friend finally pointed it out to me.

Once I had to jump a bit to reach a handhold -- really fun when you're a few stories off the ground -- and twice I had to make short jumps to switch which foot was on a rock. I was astonished at how difficult it was and this was the easiest climb. Some walls actually slope outwards (some slope very far outwards) and you're climbing with your back to the ground. Needless to say, I didn't try those.

When I got back to the bottom, I told them that buildings were easier to climb. Believe me, they are. The real risk for buildings is in getting caught, not getting hurt.

Next we went "bouldering". The bouldering room is a room with short 12 foot walls. The floors are heavily padded and you can drag extra pads beneath you. These walls have short strips laying out climbing problems for you to solve. Some have you climbing out from beneath an overhang (I took an easy one of those) and others might have you traversing a horizontal path before you get to the top (I took one of those, too). I tried a few others, but I failed on them. My fingers were sore and I didn't have the upper-body strength necessary. My upper body is in serious pain right now.

I am definitely going back.
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