Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rock Climbing, What a High!

After our little road trip to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding towns, my sister and I went rock climbing with her boyfriend and his sister the next morning.  It was my first time rock climbing and I was a bit nervous but also super excited.  I’m not particularly scared of heights though I do have a healthy sense of caution. 

My sister started rock climbing a few months back and seems to really enjoy the sport.  I read a book recently where the character is a rock climbing instructor and the book made it sound so cool.  I also recently met some friends in Hong Kong that raved about the sport.  All of these factors together culminated in my curiosity and desire to give it a try.

Climbing shoes make your feet look really small.  You are supposed to wear them very tight so your feet have very good grip.
It was awesome!  My sister was a great instructor and she belayed me on my first route.  I tried an easy 5.5 (the easiest  ranking).  I learned how to put on the harness, rope myself in, climb on, and well, reach the top!  The rocks all have colored tape / stickers to indicate the route.  The route typically gives the climber a few different options for hands and feet to get to the top.  The routes are ranked in order of easiest to hardest on a scale of 5.5, 5.6, 5.7… etc.  When it gets to 5.10, the routes split into A,B,C,D and E. 

The ranking system is a little bit subjective in that it depends on personal climbing preferences and the individual climbing and ranking that route.  I did a 5.7 route (marked in yellow in the picture below) but I actually thought the 5.6 route was slightly more challenging (though it could have been because by the time I did the last 5.6 route, I was exhausted).  I thought climbing was super empowering and really fun.  
A huge part of rock climbing is mental – fighting the fear of falling, fighting the exhaustion in your arms and legs and back, but also figuring out how to climb smart. “Flashing” a route means you go from bottom to top without touching any wrong hold and without stopping, on your very first time on the route.  “Sending” a route means you go from bottom to top without touching any wrong hold and without stopping.  Each means not using your harness, which is really pretty neat.  Using your harness just means you need to sit in the harness and rest.

Here I am on my second run, on a 5.6 route.
Being quite competitive, I was really determined to try to flash or send every single route I was doing.  It’s a lot harder than it looks… especially for a first-timer!  Here I am at the top on one of my climbs.  I felt very accomplished!
In the beginning I was clinging to the wall (and it’s amazing how fast your hands start to sweat, both from exertion and nerves!) and it was expending a lot of my energy.  But if you let go of the fact that you are 20 or 30 feet up in the air and trust in your harness (and definitely have lots of trust in your belaying buddy!) it is very doable. 

At the top of my 5.7 route, oh so close to the top, there was one grip I just could not seem to reach with my left hand.  And while I knew exactly what I had to do (extend and push off of my left foot and reach) I just could not seem to make my body do it.  It was a kind of unusual and cool situation to experience – you know what you want your body to do but something (likely your head) is balking at doing it. 

I think I may be rock climbing again when I am back in Hong Kong, though it will have to be in a while because my forearms ache...

1 comment:

  1. I'm so stealing this phrase: "not particularly scared of heights though I do have a healthy sense of caution"