Over the past month or so, my friend Christina and I have taken to the ropes and started climbing the walls. Many walls. Walls that are very very high. I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to say yes in the first place, I am terrified of heights. Given I’ve jumped out of a plane, a tad odd. But that feels totally surreal and, as it was a tandem, I had little influence of what happened. So you kind of have to just go with it!
Climbing is a different story. You tie your own knots, or you’re belaying for your climbing partner – so it’s pretty imperative you know what you’re doing with the rope – you know, to stop yourself or your partner plummeting to the floor. The height thing is VERY real. You’re only a few storeys up, so you can see the floor and it looks very far away and very very hard. It’s you and the rope and a few small blocks on a wall, and with my fear of heights, very sweaty palms.
I must be honest, I still find it totally totally scary. I’m enjoying it, but I’m not yet all that comfortable on the rope, although I’ve done the test falling, actually missing a hold when you don’t intend to, or slipping is completely terrifying. I’m sure the more I do it the less nervous and anxious I’ll be. Which is one of the reasons I am doing it. Literally confronting pretty visceral fear, and climbing through it.
Today, our third private lesson, we climbed in the Horseshoe which is more structured, but with no incline and slightly harder routes. Each route is graded on difficulty (lower the number the easier the climb). I’m still tackling grade 3 or just grabbing whatever I can get my hands on – literally! What I have really noticed is that is much more of a head sport rather than a brute physical strength sport. Sure, strength and flexibility will help, but its the strategy of getting up and over and thinking what goes where and at what angle, that really uses the grey matter. And that’s why I am enjoying it.
I had my first taste of proper fear of being stuck today. I managed to get half way up and just couldn’t figure out where to go without falling, and my right leg, (which is currently running injured) was shaking like crazy. I very nearly threw in the towel. I remembered a trick I have picked up from running. Breathe, don’t panic, just breathe. And found the next move. Its hugely rewarding to get to the top. I’m sure this is good for my head, and the adrenalin is pretty cool too.
The next stop is Stina and I passing the competence test and actually climbing on our own without the instructors and building our confidence on the more challenging routes.