It irks me when people ask how I’m doing and I reply with, “Whew, yeah, so busy.” So I’m not going to make excuses for my lack of blog posts. I will say that last night was open house and I didn’t get home until 9, at which time I was so drained that blogging felt hard, and sushi and Outlander felt so much easier.
I’m writing now, in a brief window before touch rugby, because I tried something new today and I feel like that’s grounds for a blog post.
My school has a climbing wall in the middle school gym. I’m still getting used to that statement. It’s like saying, ‘My flat is built on an underground cave system and Michael Caine lives there.’
I saw it on our tour and thought, “Wow! A climbing wall.” And left it at that. I’d never been on a climbing wall, and somehow the idea of scampering up a vertical surface using misshapen lumps of plastic as a ladder seemed awfully daunting. But that’s usually all it takes to tempt me.
A few weeks ago, one of the teachers sent out an email asking if anyone was interested in meeting on Wednesdays to climb the wall. I found myself responding yes, I would like to strap on a harness and try this madness. What’s a wall anyway? I’d summited Half Dome, which was terrifyingly close to vertical, and I’d done it harness-less. I could do this.
It was official: I was taking the black and going to the wall.
We crowded around for an orientation to belaying, or how to tighten the rope and give some slack to your climbing buddy as she ascends the wall. I was mildly concerned because the guide seemed confident that we were ready to start belaying and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d want myself on the ground as my own belay buddy, but what the heck. Then he pointed us to a section of wall with grooves carved into it like a ladder. It extended straight up to a metal pole.
“When you reach the top, you tap the pole and we let you down. Who wants to go up first?”
Because the idea scared the crap out of me, I volunteered. I’m not going to lie; there was a nagging little thought in the back of my mind that kept saying, “What if you get halfway up and your legs are shaking so hard that you have to come down? How embarrassing!” “What if you look down and you’re too scared to do it anymore and you can’t even let go to get down?”
Isabel, my trusted partner, and Jao, our instructor, helped me hook the harness to the carabiners (some of this climbing jargon may be made up) and I faced the wall. All I had to do was get to the top.
If this is something you want to do and you’re freaked out, my advice to you is this: don’t think about it. I’d been told that every time I extended my right arm up, I should take the next step with my left leg to keep my body balanced. This was the most difficult part of all, because I kept finding myself pushing up with my right. Eventually, I got the hang of it, made it to the top, slapped the pole, and waited to be let down. This part is fun. You let go of the wall and dangle at the top with a view of the entire gymnasium, which tonight included a gymnastics practice, volleyball, and some stray small children.
We had an hour and a half on the wall, and everyone was eager to go up. We basically had free reign to choose any path and ascend using any color markers. Isabel made it look graceful, and others, like Laura and Emily, were especially speedy. If GUTS! ever gets a revamp, I want them on my team.
The guy who organized the whole thing looked like he spent his free time climbing things. I swear he’d jump in the air and the wall would suction him to it like Spiderman. And once he got climbing – up, down, sideways, upside down – he reminded me of the geckos that would dart up the wall and behind my air conditioning in my old flat in Egypt. I bet he could blend into the wall if he wanted. (I know that’s chameleons and not geckos, but tail regeneration doesn’t lend itself to wall climbing.)
By the end, he and Jao had taught us to use our legs instead of our arms, and I found myself trying different routes to the top. I didn’t make it all the way up on some of them, but I will next time.
Isabel snapped a photo of me, but since I look like a large baby suspended in the air by a giant pink diaper, I’ll leave you instead with a photo of Isabel looking like a pro.