So I'd imagined rock climbing as having a difficulty level between a light back workout (a 2 on a scale of 10) and the last three miles of a half marathon (a 6 on a scale of 10). In reality, the whole thing is about an 11 on a scale of 8, once you factor in the sweaty palms, the hand grips that are often as useful as mouse nipples, the forearms that turn rock-solid with pain even when you're trying your damndest to support yourself with your toes like you were told to, and the unintentional grunting that constantly reminds you holy shit this is hard and if I don't focus and hold on I could fall off this wall and even though I'm tethered to a safety rope the partial fall might very likely result in an unintentional pooping.
It starts out easy enough, though. You're on the ground and then you're holding onto a wall. Easy, right? But then you're expected to climb the wall. Like some gravity-hostile monkey. But at least at first you're close enough to pose for a reasonably in-focus picture:
But then you're off. And every reach you make and every step you take obligates you to separate yourself from the safe, comfy ground. Plus pictures of you start to get blurry:
But if you don't look down and you don't look up and you just keep focusing on successfully holding onto the next mouse nipple and then the next and then the next, you suddenly find yourself 65 feet in the air, slapping a chalky stripe of colorful tape at the top to signal that YOU MADE IT!
And then you get to ride down. Which is lots of fun. Unless you're so busy smiling for pictures that you bonk your knee into the wall. Which would never happen to a seasoned expert like me.
But if your bonk results in broken skin, you are suddenly very badass. And people take pictures of your wound as though it were a trophy. Or a talisman of masculinity. Even though using the word talisman automatically disqualifies you from the ranks of the masculine. But if the photos don't register the gushing blood in the proper shades of crimson and terror, your street cred plummets when you display your trophy on your blog so you might as well call it a talisman and let people laugh at you until the next "family values" Republican gets caught cheating on his wife and finally takes the heat and humiliation off you.
And after two successful climbs and two not-so-successful climbs, you are spent. But not spent in an overextending-your-credit kind of way. Spent in a good way. In an I'll-sleep-so-soundly-I-probably-won't-notice-when-I-pee-myself kind of way. And when you text your trainer afterward to report that "climbing is a BITCH," he—who has heretofore never shown any interest in talking smack on any level—will text you back with a terse "suck it up." Which will make you laugh. Plus in your exhausted spentness, you'll pose for pictures where your harness pretty much says I got your talisman right HERE:
But enough about you. This is Scott. He was my belay artist (or whatever the proper title is) during my climbs last night. He's also so freaking adorable I could tether my body to his with a rope. Which, in fact, I did.
I have a good 60 pounds on Scott. So when he belays me, he doesn't just stand there like a boy with a kite. I actually make him work to keep me from killing myself when I fall off a climbing wall and face the prospect of plummeting 30 feet to my sloppy, splatty death. Which may or may not have happened one or maybe two times last night. Or possibly even three. But no more than four. And there was no involuntary pooping. At least not by me.
Scott is, of course, a consummate professional when he belays his friends. His commitment to and respect for his climbers are beyond reproach.
But enough about Scott. This is Brad. He climbed with us too. And he was put on this earth to make us feel bad about our calves.
Brad climbed four times last night too. And he always made it to the top. And he never fell off the wall. Which means he never pooped involuntarily. I assume. And see the colored tape next to the mouse nipples on the wall behind him? He did three climbs where he limited himself to using only the mouse nipples marked with one color of tape. So he has the power to make us feel bad about more than our calves.
But I'm magnanimously still letting him be my friend. And possibly my climbing buddy. Even though he doesn't have any talismans like us badass climbers.
Plus he uses his fingers too much too. So we both had painfully pumped forearms when the night was over. And we were, of course, not to vain—or veined (HA!)—to show them off for posterity:
I thought I'd be a wreck 24 hours after my first four climbs to the heavens (assuming they're on the third floor), but I'm in no more lingering pain today than I usually get from a workout. Possibly because I had one at 7:00 this morning. But my forearms are still tight. And my calves are tender. So I must have used my toes at some point. And my heart got racy and my palms got sweaty just from reliving all the fun as I wrote about it here. So I can't wait to do it again. And if you have any interest in rock climbing, I say go for it! But not before you abandon any preconceived notions you have that it will be easy. Or that you won't get out without being covered in talismans.