October 18, 2010

Survival is sweet

We naively assumed if we arrived at the crag by 9 AM, there'd be some open climbs. To further that aim, we hiked in for 2.5 miles (figuring most people would be too lazy). We were wrong. As we approached the big rock, we saw ropes attached to each anchor. Turned out the boy scouts set up climbs on EVERYTHING. As we were exploring the big rock (checking out the scary approaches required to clip in to the anchor bolts on the wall...hike a knife ridge 100 feet off the ground, anyone?) yet another group approached and started laying their gear out. They were setting up for a group of 20 climbers.


We turned around and explored a little herd path that ended up leading us to a nice smallish cliff. No one disturbed us as we flubbed around trying to remember the details from our class. Let's just say the first few knots looked VERY sketchy.

However, between the three of us (and a refresher book on climber's knots that I'd bought), we figured it out. There's something completely terrifying about preparing to walk backwards down a cliff knowing that YOU set up every single anchor and YOU tied yourself in and your hand is the ONLY thing keeping you from plummeting 25-feet. Yeehaa!

The photos of me rappelling are not so great, so here's one of me climbing back up instead:

Climbing outside with women that I enjoy has been on my life list for at least 8 years. I'm really excited that it might happen frequently for the next year (if we move in July as anticipated, it would be a bit less...). We're contemplating a trip to Joshua Tree in March, which makes me super happy. (Climbing J-tree is another item on my life list. Going there with Jrex merely to hike was TORTURE. Lovely and fun torture, of course, but getting back there as a climber is definitely on my list.)

I've been terrified to lead climb in the gym after taking an 18-foot fall a while ago. After being outside, doing two lead climbs in the gym on Sunday was a piece of cake (OK. OK. I had to stop four times to let the adrenaline 'shakes' subside, but on the second climb I barely had any fear surges).

Explanation of terms:

"Top Rope" climbs involve hiking up a hill and setting up ropes and other gear to create an 'anchor' at the top of a cliff. The rope dangles from two 'locking' carabiners that hang off the anchor system. To climb, we first lower ourselves down the rope (rappelling) and then climb back up using holds on the cliff. When done, we hike/climb back to the top to remove the anchors and then hike back out with our gear. Falling isn't that big a deal unless you're under an overhang and will then 'swing'.

"Lead climbing" means tying the rope onto one's climbing harness then climbing up the wall with the rope dangling below you. As you go, you pull the rope up and clip it into carabiners attached to the wall. Falling is a bigger deal because it's a direct force (not diluted by the anchor at the top). As I fall, I lift the person belaying me off the ground. Plus, I fall twice the length of whatever rope is past my last clip. Which means that when going for a clip that's 4 feet above my head, if I get to the clip and miss it or fail to clip in and then lose my grip, I fall 8 feet + whatever amount my belayer is pulled off the ground (I'm heavier than both my climbing partners, so I always pull them up). It looks beautiful in theory, but it's terrifying in person.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your successful climb!

And how thoughtful to take a photographer with you.

Anonymous said...

do you think you could take the aunts out for a climb? that could be the next time we all get together. i would very much like to try it. i know all of those ladies have climbed in over their heads more then once. jj

OTRgirl said...

I would love to take the aunts out for a climb. It would be a lot of fun.

otr mama said...

I was never even able to ride The Beast at King's Island....just reading this entry makes me shiver.

Inkling said...

I think your aunts could totally do a top rope climb. Once you explain to them that top roping and a good belayer (you) can help them keep from falling more than a couple of inches, they should be keen. Geez, I wish I were one of your aunts. =)

It looks like fun and it is totally cool to see you developing as a climber and becoming adept at skills that will enable you to be independent of rock guides. I don't know that I ever want to get that far, since I'm pretty content with letting my husband be the expert, but you may just inspire me to want to try anyway.

Not so secretly, I wish JRex could get a position at UBC so you could move to BC and we could meet in person and find some good climbs in Squamish. I have been dying to get my hands jammed back in a crack sometime soon, but am a little afraid what will happen if my physical therapy hasn't made my pelvic floor muscle strong enough to withstand the pressure of the harness. Currently, I'm imagining all sorts of embarrassing scenarios. But then again, I'm addicted to that kind of crack enough that it might just compel me to go anyway. =)