Sunday, January 15, 2012

Make like an Ibex at Ibex

   I spent over three hours this afternoon cultivating "trembling hand syndrome" with 33 members of the Adventure Club. A bunch of us had never tried rock climbing before, so we all took a belay class at Ibex Climbing Gym in Blue Springs to learn how not to die, paired up, and then set off climbing the walls. I buddied up with a guy named Kelly—who had climbed years before—so I figured I was in good hands. (At least one of us knew what the heck we were doing!!!)
   The belay class was good... check your buckles, learn to tie a figure 8 knot, hitch up for climbing, tie a safety knot. The belayer takes the safety device and has to constantly pull the rope taught as the climber goes, taking up all the slack so they won't have a large drop if they slip off the wall. Getting my hands in the right places at the right time and pulling the rope the right way seemed daunting at first. (I wasn't 100% sure how bad an accident I could cause if I had my right hand over my left, rather than the other way around as it should be. Yikes!) This was the only time I had butterflies... Turns out this equipment is pretty safe even for dummies. Once I got comfortable with that, I never looked back.
the partner
the challenge
   I started on some easier walls, and pretty much scampered up like a squirrel. (All were approximately 30' high, but the routes for each rope were rated by difficulty.) Fortunately, I don't have any trouble with heights as long as I feel safe and secure with the equipment. So we kept moving around to successively harder climbs, with widely spaced or rounded, slippery barnacles (I don't have any idea what those things are really called!), and sheer angles.
Kelly's having all the fun...
...while I'm belaying.
Go Stella!
Note to self: don't wear light pants; dark harness gives you an outliney, cartoony butt shape! LOL
   After taking turns a bunch of times climbing & belaying, we went upstairs to try free climbing on the shorter (12-15'?) walls. That was fun, too: it was nice to have everyone climbing at once, with no one having to hold a rope. The scariest part of the whole day for me was dropping to the thick blue mats after reaching the top. It crossed my mind that if I landed wrong, this could really jack up my impending snowboarding trip... 
     Those short climbs were surprisingly hot & sweaty. It was a much better workout than I was expecting, which was nice. To "rest", we went back downstairs to scale the tall walls...
Yep, that's me: hanging there & trying to find a place to grab onto  so I can keep going up.
   At this point we were about 3 hours into climbing, and though my mind could have gone all night, my fingers were saying, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?!" I tried the same 5.8 wall twice at the end, and got just  a yard from the top before my fingers completely gave out (while pulling all my weight toward the wall on an angle that came out toward me), and I reluctantly gave the "get me outta here" signal. Honestly, that was the hardest part of the whole day: admitting that I was too tired to get to the top on that last run. I'm gunning for that one next time!!!