Climbing 101 – New Adventures for a New Year
When people find out that I’m a rock climber, the usual reaction is something to the effect of – “Wow, I could never do that!” My response is almost always “What’s stopping you?!?”
So many times we as women refuse to undertake new adventures because of fear – fear of the unknown, of failure, or sometimes even of success! We wrap up this fear in politically correct packaging with excuses like “I’m too old,” “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t know how to get started.”
Take rock climbing for instance…At first glance, climbing might seem like an extremely intimidating sport to get involved in. Climbing jargon sounds like a foreign language, there’s a lot of equipment involved, and oh yeah, don’t forget that the whole goal is to be dangling from a sheer rock face by the power of your own strength! However, getting started may actually be a lot easier than you might think.
Follow these simple steps and you may be surprised at how soon you’ll be out on the rocks having fun!
1. Find a local gym. Most decent-sized cities have at least one rock gym, and every gym should have some sort of introductory class, where you will learn how to properly tie in to the rope, key safety commands, and how to use a belay device – that’s the nifty little thing that keeps you off the ground when (not if!) you fall. Once you’re more knowledgeable about the basic equipment, you’ll be a lot more confident to get out there and use it.
2. Make friends. Climbing gyms are crawling with…you guessed it – other climbers! The quickest way to learn the lingo and meet the locals it to jump right in and get involved wherever you can. Climbing is a social sport deeply rooted in community. Sure you’ll find a few egos that can hardly fit through the door here and there, but for the most part climbers are very open to new folks. Don’t be afraid to approach climbers that are stronger/more experienced than you and ask for help. Any climber worth knowing would be happy to offer assistance – after all, even the elite were beginners at one time.
3. Get out! Sure, indoor climbing is fun, but that’s only the beginning. The real magic happens outside, when it’s just you and the rock – there’s no colored tape to point out where the holds are, and your end goal is atop a cliff with spectacular mountain vistas (not the i-beams at the top of an industrial-warehouse-turned-climbing-gym!) The easiest ways to get yourself climbing outside? Refer back to steps 1 and 2. If a local gym is within reasonable driving distance to any type of real rock, odds are good that they will be offering guided trips to a local crag – usually gear rentals are included in the price. These guided day trips can get pretty expensive (insurance for this type of sport isn’t cheap!), so if you’re climbing on a shoestring budget, a better bet is to get to know the local climbers and let them know you’re interested in touching some real rock. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for meetup groups or climbers looking for partners on the bulletin board in your rock gym. Make friends and sooner or later you’re bound to score an invite on a weekend trip.
My first time climbing outdoors was with a guide my husband and I had hired out in Squamish, British Columbia. We were on a “rest” day during a week long anniversary ski trip at Whistler/Blackcomb Mountain. We’d been climbing in the gym for a few months already, but after that first day outdoors we were hooked. We were blessed to find a mentor back home that took us under his wing. He taught us about lead climbing and placing gear, and within months we were confident enough to explore new areas on our own.
Since that very first real rock outing, we’ve been able to use climbing as a starting block for countless adventures all across North America! But probably our biggest adventure yet started in the summer of 2009, when I saw two lines on a pregnancy test – most people would assume that climbing, pregnancy, and babies don’t have very much in common with each other, and that I would have dutifully traded my harness in for a stroller. However, I would beg to differ – climbing played an integral role in keeping me physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy during my pregnancy. And now that our little Cragbaby is here, he’s as active a participant in our adventures as anyone else!
It hasn’t always been easy to continue in our family’s recreational pursuits with a little one around, but the memories we have made along the way have more than made up for some of the challenges and obstacles we’ve faced at certain points on the journey.
Is climbing a sport for everyone? No, it’s certainly not. But is it a sport for only thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkies? Most definitely not! If you could look at my circle of climbing friends, you’d see mommies and daddies, grandparents, children, students, young, old, wealthy, poor, tall, short, fat, people that like to wear polyester…you name it, I’ve seen it. Few sports with such an extreme reputation have such a diverse population of participants. But one thing we have in common is that we’re all addicted to playing outside in Creation.
So whether it’s finding a local rock gym in your area, signing up for a yoga class, or simply dusting off the running shoes from the back of your closet, don’t be afraid to take that first step! The prospect of a new adventure is always a little daunting, but the rewards are more than worth it – and what better way to start off the new year than with new, healthy endeavors!
If taking on a new challenge is one of your goals for 2012, please feel free to share it in the comments section. I’m looking forward to getting involved in this community of women who are pushing themselves to accomplish goals they’ve set for themselves. Let’s swap stories and inspire one another! Climb on!
Photo Credits: Manuela Eilert and Steve Lineberry