Last Friday I was visiting a friend who invite me to go climbing with him. Having never been climbing before I jumped at the chance. I figured we would be going to an indoor wall of about 20-25 feet and have an easy day of mocking my inability to do a chin-up. This was not the case and I found myself standing at the top of a cliff becoming a little nervous.
Since I'd never rappelled before and seeing as we were already at the top of the cliff Steve thought this would be a good opportunity for me to give that a try so after explaining to me how the gear worked and showing me how to do it I leaned back over the cliff and began my decent. All in all it was pretty easy, I'm not scared of heights and you tend to be in total control of your own decent which is comforting when you're hanging 70 feet over a pile of rocks.
After we reached the bottom the fun part began. Steve explained how belaying worked and showed me the equipment that we would be using along with the basic terminology I would need to know. I can't stress enough how much I love knowing how things work, especially when these things are directly related to me and my continued state of being alive.
Steve climbed first so I could watch his route and try belaying. he scampered up the cliff face and then relied on me to regulate the speed of his decent. Next was my turn, after Steve explained some of the techniques I might need to use to make it to the top of this and the next route like smearing. The actual climbing, while strenuous, wasn't the series of chin-ups that I expected but seemed to require more focus, balance and flexibility (2/3 ain't bad). That being said I don't think my heart stopped pounding the entire time I was climbing.
After the climb I figured I would rappel down and we would move on to the next location, however I found myself with only one side of the rope and in a situation where I had absolutely 0 control over the speed of my decent. I should have realized this when I was controlling Steve during his decent but it never really occurred to me until I was leaning over the edge holding on to a rope that we essentially falling with me. Fortunately I trust Steve and he's scared of my wife so I was pretty confident that he'd take good care of me. That being said the constant sound of rope grinding over granite while you are being lowered 60 feet down will probably always raise alarms in my head.
The second route we took was about 10 feet higher and required quite a bit more thought, but was also more interesting in some of the approaches that were possible. I think Steve was a little disappointed that I didn't fall on either of the climbs (Isn't that the point) and told me I'd have greater respect/confidence in the gear if I had tested it 40 feet up and seen how solid it was. I'll take him at his word on that.
I think I'll try an rock wall indoors next and I'll certainly stick to top-rope climbing for a while before I start relying on those amazing cams as more than a guide.
All in all it was a lot of fun.
Photo set on Flickr.