Thanks to our friend Emily's suggestion, we went rock climbing on Friday night with her and Stephen and Stephen's rock-climbing buddies. Well, to be honest .... the experts (Stephen and co.) actually climbed. The novices (me, Keith, and Emily) just messed around. But it was fun!
Emily directed us to the Cleveland Rock Gym, which is an old warehouse that has been converted into climbing walls ranging from 10-feet to 30-feet tall. We chose not to get harnessed up and tackle the 30-foot walls. Instead, they had an option to just "Boulder" which meant climbing the smaller walls or staying below a certain height on the higher walls, so we didn't have to get harnessed and belayed. (Can you "get belayed"? Not really sure of the verbiage there ....)
We did rent climbing shoes. As the worker is pulling out our appropriate sizes, he did warn us "These shoes should be tight enough to hurt." And they were! Not just uncomfortable, but seriously painful. They are very thin, and the bottom is made of smooth rubber. Somehow the shoes curl your toes under—I'm assuming for better grippy-ness on the rocks. I couldn't keep them on the whole time; I had to give my feet a break in the middle. As Stephen says, "I feel like a ballerina!" Except, not graceful. At all.
I was really intimidated to start. I felt like everyone else knew what they were doing, and I was just this wimpy, out-of-shape former runner who didn't know the first thing about climbing. I imagined myself falling off the walls in many horrible, contorted positions. I'm really glad we had Emily there to give us some pointers.
She explained that they create different routes on the walls, which are marked by colored tape and given a point value. For example, the red-tape route (which usually has a more colorful name like "Cherry Bomb") could be worth 100 points, which is the easiest. The more points, the higher level of difficulty.
To start, Emily climbed a medium-difficulty route. Then Keith tried it and got probably 3/4s of the way before jumping off the wall because he couldn't figure out where to go next. I only made it halfway, if that. For us, it was much more than medium difficulty.
Eventually, I fell into a groove. First of all, I stopped trying to follow routes and just climbed the easiest way possible, using every hand- and foothold available. Stephen also gave us some climbing advice ("Use your legs! Try the mantle grip!" and other things we couldn't decipher). We also sat around and watched the experienced climbers, marveling at how they moved their bodies up and sideways. I especially liked seeing someone arrested in mid-climb as she contemplated her next move. Kind of like chess, but with your LIFE. (If it weren't for the harnesses and all.)
Towards the end, we focused on the easiest wall in the place, and one of the easiest routes on the wall. We tried over and over again to figure out how to finish that one route. Keith and Emily both did; I never managed it without cheating. And after a few hours, my arms weren't even capable of hauling me up to the top of the 10-feet wall, no matter how many ways I cheated. It was time to call it a night.
I think, overall, it was a really great experience of getting outside my comfort zone. At the beginning of the evening, I thought it was a HORRIBLE idea. We were going to die horrible deaths, or at the very least be painfully maimed. And why? WHY? Just for fun.
But by the end, I was enjoying myself. I liked being sore the next day. I'm still thinking about that one route, and how the heck I could manage to finish it without cheating. I'd like to go back and give it another try. Hopefully before my next birthday!