After my struggle to summit Mt. Mansfield in early September, I have been working hard to get in shape for my future high point hikes. Up until now, this preparation has focused on running outside and practicing aerial yoga to build up my core and strengthen my legs. But, where I really needed practice was rock climbing.
After a little research, I found Gravity Vault and dragged one of my friends along with me last Monday night. He had done a little rock climbing in his life, but not enough to intimidate me, so in many ways, he was the perfect partner.
Since neither of us had much experience, we signed up for an hour of instruction with a staff member. It was the perfect way to go because we were given a run down of how things work, as well the opportunity to really get a feel for rock climbing, while also keeping in mind that we were experiencing it for the first time.
There was a lot of initial intimidation, especially since my last experience of any climbing wasn’t exactly successful; I still remember clinging to the rocks on Mansfield in fear. Still, I knew with the controlled atmosphere of indoor climbing, this was the perfect place to begin.
After putting on our shoes and harness, both available to rent, we moved to our first wall and were told how everything worked. Then, I was hooked up and told to climb up. It was not as hard as I had expected it to be, partially because the walls we started on were relatively easy. I made my way to the top and only freaked out once I realized just how high up I was. I’m a little afraid of heights, but my instructor assured me there was no way I would fall, and once I belayed down, I began to feel more comfortable on the rope.
For the next hour, we went from wall to wall taking turns to tackle each climb. We followed taped routes up to the top, each with increasing difficulty, and I quickly realized just how much energy was exerted when rock climbing. With each new wall, my confidence grew, but my strength began to decrease. Some areas were also more difficult to hold, and I found my nails getting in the way and my hands began to hurt. We used chalk to aid in our climbs, but in the future, I would make sure to cut my nails before attempting more difficult climbs.
From the beginning, we were told to not use our upper body strength and focus on our legs, but it wasn’t always easy, especially when stretching to the nearest hand or foot hold. This was definitely an aspect I struggled with, and one I kept trying to get better at. Still, there’s a lot to think about while getting to the top, and as we got to harder rock climbing walls, it wasn’t easy to remember it all, especially since it was my first experience.
But, I ended the session feeling confident and ready to return. I wasn’t always as successful as I wanted to be, but I think the skills I’ll gain over time will help me once I get outdoors and resume my high point hiking adventures.
The important lesson, as with all new activities, is to give it my best each time. This is something I want to do and a goal I hope to reach. I am beginning to realize just how much training I’m going to need, and the fact that I enjoyed this activity, is just half the battle.