My fingers were slipping, and toe holds were smaller than I liked, so I threw one leg up on a ledge and hooked my heel over the corner. It was a desperation-born move but my two encouragers on the ground admired my spunk and creativity; they cheered as I muscled my way onto the narrow projection of rock and stood up. I was on the wall again at long last.
Both of my partners this day were advanced, having climbed for years. I, an ‘advancing beginner,’ went along to watch and learn, and to belay them from the ground along some of the hundred or so climbs on Potash Road. In exchange for my modicum of helpfulness, they urged me to try some of the short sections of each route that had a few do-able moves. “You gotta get on the difficult stuff, even when you’re just learning. You won’t advance if you stay in your comfort zone,” Atty said. And then he put me on a climb several grades beyond my ability. “It’s 90% mental, 5% technique, 5% strength,” he added helpfully.
I came home with less skin and more bruises than I started with. My triceps ached for a couple of days, highlighting my laxity in exercising. So… why do I love this sport? Why do I feel so alive on the rock? In part, because every tiny effort is rewarded by a new insight into or understanding of body mechanics, friction or physics. It focuses my concentration like a laser. There is an exhilaration in willing yourself to find places where the rock can provide just enough support for each of your four tired limbs. It opens the way for you to boldly go where you’ve not gone before. (Cue Star Trek opening music and Captain Kirk’s voice…)
I’ve created an entertaining Facebook photo album that tells a short story of my climbing attempt. You can find it here.