In elementary school, gym class was always a favorite among students. Every few weeks there would be a sense of excitement as one unit ended and the next one neared with anticipation. The unit that aroused the most enthusiasm was the whittle equipment. The more adventurous activities broke up the mundane routine of dodge ball, soccer, and kickball.
As soon as students saw the rock climbing wall go up, covering the old, peeling posters on safety, everyone was practically begging for a chance to climb the wall. Well, everyone but me. Seriously? Me? Climb a wall? Sooo not gonna happen. I mean I could chip a perfectly manicured nail.
Through my twelve years of gym class, I managed to stick my mitt up in the air when a ball came my way, swing my golf club when a teacher was looking, and run after the ball when it passed by me, all pretending to participate. I would choose math class over gym class any day–especially when we were supposed to be climbing things and hanging upside down.
So why in the world was I at Earth Treks, a state of the art rock climbing facility, on a Thursday night for an introductory class? Because I’m working towards becoming a certified belayer, obviously. One of the boys that I babysit has recently become interested in climbing, but he is restricted to climbing on the weekends since he needs a staff member to belay him. Since he is more likely to go during the week, his mom and I planned to take the course to become certified so that we could go with him.
Unfortunately, his mom has had three back surgeries and she was having flare ups a few days before the class, so my brother went with me instead. Let me just preface this by saying that Earth Treks is a nightmare for me. Germs, dreadlocks, and trail mix run rampant throughout the facility. Purell is my best friend, I like to brush my hair, and nuts are not my idea of a snack. Oh, and the whole shoe rental thing? G-r-o-s-s.
Needless to say, I was less than eager about spending three hours in the bacteria magnet. In addition to Brian and me, there were three other boys in the group. One guy was a college student and the other two were brothers; all regular climbers. Thankfully, we had a female instructor so I wasn’t too intimidated.
Before getting started, we sat around in a circle, stating our names and telling the group what our favorite thing to do in the summer is–just like in kindergarten. The first brother introduced himself as Sasha. Then the other brother introduced himself as Pasha. I might have laughed out loud. They also both said that their favorite thing to do during the summer was rock climb. How unoriginal. At least I had a much better answer–that I like to hang out at the beach. Way less predictable.
Things were going great while we were on two feet and not dangling from a thin rope. I learned how to tie a figure-eight knot properly and how to secure and tighten an extremely unflattering harness. Then our instructor asked that we take turns climbing the practice wall. I thought she was kidding. She was flabbergasted and confused when my eyes popped out of my head and my mouth fell agape at her request.
I clung on for dear life and begrudgingly made my way up the wall without flying off, surprisingly. I hated every second of it. My instructor was convinced that I would have an adrenaline rush then all of a sudden fall in love with climbing. She clearly didn’t realize that my idea of an adrenaline rush is scoring a 500-dollar pair of shoes for half off.
Shockingly, when it came time to freely climb on the real walls, I was willing to give it a second try. I somehow made it up the 30-foot wall with a relative amount of ease, but I let Brian tackle the much harder climbs. Although, he didn’t appreciate it when I couldn’t remember the proper terminology and would leave him hanging (literally). The climber and belayer are to use specific terms to communicate, but I couldn’t seem to remember to say “Gotcha” when he had reached the top and indicated that he was ready to come down.
I was bored out of my mind, but Pasha and Sasha were rather entertaining. They were 14 and 15 years old, but acted more like 7 and 8. They had to be asked to stop swinging their ropes around like a lasso, pushing off from the rock walls while they were coming down, and running off from the group. Their names alone provided me with a night full of laughs. I couldn’t help myself from chortling when I heard Sash say, “Come on, Pash,” then the response “Coming, Sash.”
While I fully admire some of the athletes there, I think we all know that I won’t be climbing Mount Everest any time soon.
Have you ever rock climbed before? Were you as terrified as I was?