This guy I was friends with a couple of years ago calls me up and asks me to go rock climbing with him. I’ve NEVER been rock climbing, and had someone asked me to do this a year ago- the answer would have been ‘Oh HELL to the no,’ or something close to that. It’s not that I didn’t like the IDEA of scaling a 32 foot wall while secured only by a harness around my butt attached to, what I think is, a pretty skinny rope coming out of the top of the wall… A year ago I know that I was not in good enough shape to do something like this. A year ago, I weighed 218 lbs, and would have rather done pretty much anything else than have a bunch of people watch me try and stuff that 218 lbs into a harness and then try and drag my body weight up a wall. Granted, there were people bigger than I was even then successfully rock climbing, but it’s not something I could have done, nor would I have enjoyed.
When my friend Frostt invited me, I had a brief moment of ‘How the HELL am I going to get out of this?’ before I ultimately decided, ‘Oh why the fuck not.’ I thought about the things I was afraid of- the height wasn’t a problem, I don’t mind heights. I was afraid that I literally wasn’t going to be ABLE to pull myself up. I’ve never been able to do a pull-up, granted I haven’t tried in years. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to have the strength required to complete the task. I was also afraid of making a fool out of myself. It would have been terrible to have gone to a rock climbing gym with someone who had intentions of being there for hours, and then have become discouraged after 15 minutes of failed attempts and wanting to leave. Not to mention, I’m friends with the owner of the gym. She’s one of my biggest supporters and is always encouraging me- and I would have felt like an idiot had I not been able to do it.
As quickly as my doubts and fears started rolling in, I pushed them back out and remembered what I’ve done over the past handful of months. As far as numbers go, I’ve lost 60 lbs. I have dropped 6 pants sizes. I have brought my BMI down from over 31, to about 22. I still have fat-girl thoughts, and can still be in a room full of people and feel like I’m the big girl, but in reality- at 5’10” and 158 lbs, I am perfectly average. I am a perfectly healthy weight for my height, I am proportionate. So, as far as numbers and size go- I fit in with the normal population. In addition to that- I have worked out almost daily for the past 7 months. I can last longer on an elliptical than anyone I know, I strength train multiple times a week, and for the past 2 months I’ve been doing hot yoga multiple times a week. Why the hell WOULDN’T I be able to go rock climbing? I know I’m strong, I know I’m healthy- it’s my own problem with remembering I’m not who I used to be that stops me from doing these things, and I had to snap out of it.
I agreed to go- and I couldn’t be happier that I did. My friend at the gym, Cara, hooked us up with climbing shoes and harnesses and took us out into the gym. She showed me how to get all set up, and took us over and showed us how to climb using the auto belays. (If my terminology or usage of it is wrong, I apologize- feel free to correct me!!!) Basically a section of wall with a couple of ropes hanging from the the top. The ropes are coming from this device that, as Cara put it, make it behave like a seat belt in the sense that you can pull on it forever and it will just keep giving you rope… But if you jerk on it with a certain amount of force, it’s going to tense up. As soon as you’re hooked up to this rope, you can feel it pulling you towards the wall, there is no slack in the rope. Walk away from the wall, it gives you rope. Walk towards the wall, it pulls the rope in. It DOESN’T behave like a seat belt in the sense that it won’t STOP you if you’re falling, it just slows you down.
Cara goes first to show us (me, really. This is all refresher material for Frostt.) the techniques and safety precautions, how to repel back down once you’re up. Then Frostt goes up halfway just to show that he can properly, repels down, and then it’s my turn. I’m nervous, but I know I’m not getting out of this so I walk up to the wall and grab on. Right hand up, left hand up, right foot, left foot. Okay, I’m ON the wall. Left foot up, right hand up, PULL- right foot up, left hand up. Ohmahgoodness, I’m up the wall even further. Halfway up the wall Cara tells me to go ahead and repel back down. “Okay Kyle, put your right hand on the rope,” Okay- done. “Now put your left hand on the rope and push off from the wall with your feet.” Uh, does she realize that once I grab the rope, I’m falling down? Whatever. Grab the rope, push off the wall, and down I came. Good thing she was right behind me, she steadied my fall so I didn’t land right on my ass.
Yay! I climbed a rock wall! Feeling pretty good about myself at this point, she takes us over to show us the bouldering area to REALLY crush any confidence I had. Bouldering is rock climbing, with no ropes. I KNOW. No ropes. Not to mention there’s this weird angle on this thing, and it’s like you’re climbing upside down on parts of it. I was like, awesome well THAT’S never happening. So she leaves us to our own devices at this point, and we’re on our own.
We climb a couple walls, takes me a few runs but I finally make it to the top of one. Frostt attempts to defy gravity a couple of times on some of the bouldering passes, beasting a few of them. I had a few really nerdy moments while climbing Saturday… Frostt at one point was like, ‘Hey did you make it to the top of that one wall yet?’ And I said no, and he tells me well then I better get to it. So I hook up to it and start… I don’t get very far before I’m like, okay there’s nowhere else for me to go on this one, I’m stuck. “Bring your left foot up to that one rock right there,” he calls out, and I’m like, he must be insane, that thing is way too high to get to. I tell him this and he says ‘Oh shut up, you’re flexible- just do it.’ And I have to remind myself of who I am and all that other ‘I used to be fat’ cornball stuff, and I pull my leg up and get it to the rock in question. I push off from there and am able to lift myself a couple feet higher up the wall. I make it up the wall, and repel back down, surprised with even myself.
Back over to the boulders, Frostt is analyzing the paths when I point out this one that doesn’t look too impossible, figuring he should be able to do that one easily. He does, and then tells me to do it. I again, tell him he’s crazy, he again, tells me to shut up and do it. I latch on to the wall, he tells me where to go, and I make it to the top of the boulder. It’s not until he tells me to go ahead and drop that I’m suddenly aware that I’m not hooked up to a rope. I end up dropping down to the rocks only after he’s standing almost directly beneath me, ready to grab my legs.
After a few hours we leave to grab something to eat, after asking Cara if we can come back when we’re done. We go grab Panera, I realize it’s difficult to even grab a fork at this point, I’m COVERED in rock dust, and that my freshly done nails have been annihilated. But that these are all awesome things. We head back to the gym, and Cara’s getting geared up to climb too. After watching her climb the wall a few times without being hooked up to anything, like a little monkey, she says that if we want, we can hook up to her and climb- again I don’t know how ANY of this is explained, but instead of being hooked up to the auto belay, SHE’D be the one controlling the slack and the rope and all that. Frostt goes first, and his sore hands and forearms make it much more difficult than the climbing earlier in the day. When Cara tells me it’s my turn and I tell her I don’t think I’ll be able to get a grip on anything, she tells me I’m going to try anyways. These people and their tough love huh? I love it. She and Frostt talk me up the wall, I make them take a couple of pictures, and then my right arm decides it’s had enough. About 3/4 of the way up the wall I tell Cara it’s time to come down. She tells me I can let go, I do, and she releases the rope slowly. Those two were all about the tough love and making me go outside my comfort zone, and a HUGE thanks to both of them for that.
It was an eye-opening day for me. I’m SO glad I went, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I know I can. It’s a reminder to me that I’m NOT the person I used to be, I don’t have to be afraid of these things, and that I’m capable of way more than I thought I was. Makes me wonder what else I can do, that I’ve just been too afraid to try.
Pull ups, maybe?