Health Nutty

Climbing to New Heights (a-hurr)

Source: Flickr user terren

Last Friday, I did something I’ve never done before. My friend Emily and I sucked up our fear (and sucked in our bellies) and we went and met a complete stranger to go rock climbing. Charlottesville only has one indoor climbing gym (that I’m aware of), Rocky Top REC. I first heard of Rocky Top over a year ago, and I wanted to try it…but being a weenie, I didn’t want to go by myself. I know that it’s usually better to go in pairs anyway, because one person has to handle the rope while the other person climbs. Plus, the inside pictures of all the gym looked like it was mostly dudes – definitely intimidating to a chubby out-of-shape amateur girl.

In purusing local Meetup groups, though, I found a rock climbing group. They meet every Friday at Rocky Top. Suddenly even more interested. So I mentioned it at work, and my co-worker Emily lit up – she had always wanted to try it too, and she was game to do it right away. Awesome. So I had a buddy, and a reason to be there, and at least one person who knew what they were doing who was going to be there to show us what to do. Score.

We walked in, and honestly – it’s really rugged and industrial. Very much by men, for men. BUT – the guy who greeted us was super, super friendly, seemed honestly glad that we were there and that it was our first time. He took our money (which was less than we’d expected because we counted as guests of a member, the Meetup group leader we were meeting there), and then he sent us to the bathroom and got us shoes and taught us how to put on the harnesses. Then he showed us the basics: how the belayer (the rope holder) connected herself to the floor and the rope; how the climber connected herself to the rope, the safety checks each person goes through, and then how to come down once you get to the top.

Em, being braver than I, climbed first. She did awesome, had a good time, got to the top (we started on the easiest wall, obviously), and then I got her down with no major incidents. We switched, and while I think I was slower than she was, I still did fine, got to the top, had fun, got down, etc. We did it again on the easy wall, and then we moved to a harder wall – in fact, quite a bit harder wall, since the next hardest wall was already taken. Em went first again, and she got about 3/4 of the way up and fell – and it was fine. I let her down on the rope, she was all good. Then I went, and I think I got 2 moves before I fell. So I tried again. This time I got about halfway up before my arms were just toast. I knew if I tried to move again, I would definitely fall – so I called down and had her let me down. We moved to the next-to-easiest wall that we had skipped before, and she went one more time, but I didn’t think my arms could do it again. The whole time, Mark – from the Meetup group – was awesome. He stuck with us, coached us, was infinitely patient. And of course, we both belayed for him a few times so he could climb, too. He told us that he’s trying to get a weekend trip together sometime this spring for a climbing gym down in Lynchburg that has higher walls.

The next day, I was sore: my triceps, biceps, forearms, even my fingers a little bit, and then a little in my legs too (particularly my inner thighs). But it wasn’t an incredibly painful soreness. It was more like, “Oh, hey, I used these muscles I don’t often use and now they’re letting me know they’re there.” Em and I both liked it – I think we’ll be back again. The thing about it that surprised me the most: I thought I’d like it because I like heights, but I didn’t ever really notice that I was up high. I like being high above things; even as a kid I wanted to sit on top of my desk rather than in my chair because it was just a bit higher. And I thought the husband would NOT enjoy climbing because heights give him vertigo. BUT. As I said, I didn’t really notice being up high. The whole time, you’re looking at the wall, plotting your next move; when you come down, you’re still facing the wall or looking just a foot or so beneath you. You never really look down far enough to feel like you’re up high. I think he could handle it, and he might try it once just to see. I’ve already been thinking in my mind about how I could do better at it next time, and I’m envisioning that one day, I might have awesome arms (which I have NEVER had) if I keep with it.

Anyone got a climbing story to share? Fears, questions, insights? Or just want to come along to the next Meetup?

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4 thoughts on “Climbing to New Heights (a-hurr)

  1. i was told by the trainer guy when i went climbing, to use my legs to pull myself up more than my arms. he showed me how he would step up and really, he didn’t need his arms except to hold himself to the wall. it made a huge difference when i tried the next few times.

    unfortunately for me, i get foot cramps really easily (all those dang high heels) so of course as soon as i got the hang of it, i got a foot cramp and had to call it quits for the day.

    1. Oh, they told me that too. And I tried, I really did, but there were a lot of places where I didn’t know how I’d get up to the next spot without using my arms at least some. Maybe I’ll get better with practice! 🙂

  2. Definitely keep with it. I began climbing about a year and a half ago, and I had the same story. As a runner, I had no upper body strength whatsoever and thought climbing was not for me. But then I got addicted, and without lifting a single weight in a gym, I can now do 12-14 pull-ups. I absolutely love climbing, the newfound upper body strength is just a side benefit.

    Charlottesville is my hometown, I didn’t start climbing until after I moved away, but I look forward to checking out the climbing gym when I visit next week!

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