Yes, all of those capital letters up there are completely justified, and not excessive in the least, really, keep reading and you will see! Its also a long texty post, but its a good story I promise!
So, I have been regularly climbing indoors since about, September. I did a top rope course in the spring, but we just never seemed to get into the hall or onto the rocks all summer. So starting September, we were going a few times a month. It started off pretty slow for me, because for some strange reason, I was a climber with a pretty solid fear of heights.
I understood the rope systems and the knots, trusted my belayer (hello relationship test), and got the logic of the whole system, but it really didn’t matter. It was almost as if I had an altimeter built into my head, I didn’t even have to look down, and BAM, I knew when I was ‘too high’ and I instantly froze up. September was full of some half climbed routes, but I started to get more comfortable slowly but surely. There is a highly entertaining story about the time I climbed a whole 20m, got to the top, looked down, and basically crapped my pants on the way down. Anyway, progress was made, but it was still a mental battle to not freeze, to keep breathing, to trust the system.
I entered the realm of 5c climbing (I think it’s 5.10 for you American readers, but correct me if I am wrong), still top rope, but I realized the more challenging a climb was, the more I enjoyed it and got into it and stopped thinking about the height. I still had issues with the size of the hand holds, but with new shoes was getting pretty confident on fairly small foot holds. I did a few routes with ‘no’ footholds, no defined ones anyway.
But all still top rope, and all still a bit fearful.
We did some fall practicing, with me leaving as much slack in the rope as I could handle before I let go. It always went a lot like this
On the bottom – Okay, I’m going to leave one bolts worth of slack as if I was lead climbing and fell clipping in the rope
Climbing high enough to not kick anyone in the face – Wow, maybe half a bolt is fine
Standing there with the slack – Er… maybe… maybe less slack OH GOD THIS WAS A STUPID IDEA
Jumping- Maniac laughter distracting everyone within earshot.
It was a productive process.
I’ve wanted to try lead climbing before, but always lucked out with classes taking over the easy routes for exactly the same thing as I wanted to do. I practiced clipping the rope into the express, I tied into both a top rope and a lead rope, pulled it up and clipped it in the whole way as I was protected from above, really the only thing left to do, was do it.
So we went last night. I was feeling a bit like crap after a long afternoon of seminars, but just wanted to bust up some routes. We were both climbing really well, the weird ‘my body got bigger and awkward’ feeling was gone, I could feel my strength coming from my core, and was feeling confident and sure. I blasted up some routes, and then, said, Yep. Okay. That one. I’m going to top rope it, checking out where to pause and where to straight arm as I clip in, and then I am lead climbing it.
And, I did.
My rope clipping was awkward, and they have these weird safety ones at the top that almost require two hands, but I did it.
It. Felt. Awesome.
I focused on my feet, I thought about where my body was, where my weight was centered. I moved surely and confidently, got to the bottom, and then lead another one right beside.
And you know the absolute funniest thing ever.
I got to the bottom and said to German Boy ‘ You know, you kept the rope awfully snug, maybe next time you could leave a bit more slack in it in between the bolts’.
He laughed, a lot.