For years I wanted to try rock climbing; and over a decade ago, I finally took the leap by booking a “lesson-for-two” at a local indoor gym. Finding a partner presented an unexpected challenge when everyone threw me excuses: “I’m afraid of heights”, “I’m weak”, “I have kids!”, and the ever-popular, “I want to live!” But providence prevailed and I stumbled upon an equally enthusiastic co-conspirator – a teammate, and soon-to-be friend.
Our indoor crag kept us amused until vague discontent finally launched us into an uneasy decision to let go of our fear and hesitancy of the real rock. So we hired a certified guide, bundled our new rope, and set out to a world class climbing destination to conquer some big wall climbing. We defied gravity on cliffs that stretched higher than a city skyscraper and a fall would result in an undesired plummet past ledges to the visible highway below. Was this what we needed to conquer self-doubt? Outdoor climbing is surely not for the faint-hearted; but that day we proved to ourselves that we are … brave hearts.
It’s overcoming fear that makes rock climbing incredibly addictive and contagious. Trepidation adds an exhilarating ingredient, as do danger and risk. And our mental stamina is tested to work out the puzzle of the wall. We are challenged to push our physical limits and build strength. Climbing engages all muscles, especially our core, and many people today are realizing these fitness benefits.
It’s overcoming fear that makes rock climbing incredibly addictive and contagious.
We may not all have equal ambition, but the indoor climbing atmosphere offers potential for a tough yet fun workout. The sport continues to grow in popularity, and gyms are plentiful. Beginning inside helps us to learn the basics of belaying and to practice our technique in a much safer environment than outdoors.
Unrestrained by walls or a ceiling, outdoor climbing is fitting for anyone who seeks adventure in the magnificent open air. But be prepared to burn off a bit of adrenaline! Taking a course from an authorized instructor is a must for beginners, as it’s essential to be taught rope-work techniques and practice scaling real rock. Clambering around outside is also going to necessitate some crucial know-how, such as familiarizing yourself with knot tying and safety measures. A certified instructor will keep you secure on the ropes and demonstrate sensible climbing and abseiling. Confidence at the crag can be nurtured through experience. And with some time, aptitude and proficiency in belaying and setting up a top rope will develop.
Although strength and flexibility will help, climbing is about balance and grace. So we as women are naturals! Good technique will compensate for any deficiencies in strength. You have what it takes; but here are a few hints from some new climbers:
- Use your legs and trust your feet. You have the ability to hold your own weight with your legs.
- Find a belayer that you can trust; this will help you to focus on climbing without a constant fear of falling.
- Fear of heights is normal, but rock climbing is about conquering fear. A good trick is only to look down at your foot placement. Also, dropping your ankle will relax shaky “Elvis” legs.
- Visualize each movement and execute it unhurriedly. Move methodically and gracefully. Sustaining a stilted posture will oppose your efforts.
Almost anyone can get into rock climbing, but let’s be honest; any extreme sport is inherently dangerous. Mistakes or accidents can be catastrophic, resulting in serious injury or death. Proper instruction is necessary in order to learn how to climb safely.
Another consideration, whether climbing indoors or out, is the cost. Private gyms can be expensive, and those of us who climb regularly need to purchase at least the basic personal gear: shoes, harness and a belay device. Since gyms rent gear, it’s a good option for getting started.
Climbing is a wonderful endeavor to pursue with a loved own, or with a girlfriend who shares a zeal for excitement and exercise. Clubs and gyms are usually very social and can get us connected to others who share the same pursuit. No matter who you climb with, you’re going to have a great experience.
When people ask about my favorite climb, I try not to disappoint: It was the climb where I found a diamond ring with a “Will you marry me?” sign at the top of the pitch! This is proof that when we climb a route, there’s no telling what we will see from the top. It may be the mist hovering over a forest, or a red desert sky. But the best part is the always the climb: we build memories, meet others who share the same interest, clear our minds, fill our souls and keep our bodies fit.
Calling brave hearts: if you’ve ever wanted to climb, now’s the time. Spring is the perfect season to get ourselves climbing fit. Don’t wait for others – they might just leave you hanging. Leaping a vertical wall is not just for men or Spiderman. Just remember the golden rule: What goes up, must come down.
Have you rock climbed? What do you love about it?
Image via Morgan Ashley