Rock Climb

Julie Grinstead


Tonight I took a rock climbing class. Always thought about it but this time I signed up and did it instead of waiting for that ever-elusive someday. I signed my son, Andy, up for the class as well since he is actually the experienced climber with two wall climbs at a place in Ohio to his credit. I told him tonight, "Sometimes I feel like you are my best friend." And he is. He is always up for doing these things with me, for trying new foods, for finding new trails to hike, for just being and experiencing.

I learned how to put on the gear and to do a figure-eight follow-through knot. I learned how to be the belayer, the person who holds the rope at the bottom, how to work the belay device, sliding my right hand up to my left hand, which guides the rope up to the climber, to keep the slack out of the rope. I learned about carrabeeners and daisy chains and how to stop a falling person (Andy!). And the most exciting part -- I climbed the wall. I did it. I really did. It was hard work and I was suddenly very thankful for the time I've spent over the years to develop good arm and leg strength. It took all the arm strength I had to haul myself up those tiny bumps and knots of rock on that twenty feet of straight up and down all.

I climbed the "easy" side twice, then decided to try the side with the outcropping halfway up which sticks out about a foot and a half from the flat wall. I had to climb up to the underside of the outcropping, reach blindly around the side of it for a hand hold, grab quickly for a hand hold on top of the outcropping, then hang by my fingertips until I could heave my foot up onto the slanted top of the outcropping (bringing my foot to almost face level in the process). I was so scared, even though I knew there was a rope there to catch me. Somehow I tended to forget about that rope and the instinct for self-preservation kept me clinging for dear life to that wall. Once I got a foot up, I grabbed for a higher hand hold and then walked my feet up the face of the outcropping in a move called "the smear", which is what I would've been without the rope. I made it over and up to the top, twice. By the time the teacher eased me down on the rope the last time, I was sweating and shaking but so damned proud of myself. I did it. I really did. I was proud of Andy, too, and how we could work together and talk each other over obstacles and through our fears.

And now, as with so many things I try, I am hooked. I want to do it again. I have a little card that says I can go in and rent the equipment anytime and climb the wall. And someday, SOMEday, some ever-elusive someday I am going to find a climbing partner and do a real rock climb on a real rock. Even sitting here with my arms achy and tired, it seems like something within my reach.

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