Do you remember the first time you watched Wizard of Oz and Dorothy went from the black and white world of Kansas into the colorful world of Oz? Like stepping out of an airplane in a new country. Welcome to my experience with rock climbing.
I have goals in life. I like to think of myself as willing to try new things. Definitely not boring but certainly not a risk taker. I used to do unexpected things. I've backpacked through Western Europe, lived in the Middle East, drove cross country and camped out in the Western U.S. for a summer... you know fun, "live like you mean it" activities. But somewhere in between working a full time job and since starting a family, I have become a little dull around the edges. Let me be the first to say that my children and my husband are the most important things in my life. I am proud of who I am, what I do and the choices I have made. That being said, sometimes you get so covered in layers of diaper changes and melt-in-your-mouth teething cereal that you lose sight of your daring side. I have to be practical now and reliable and responsible. No drag car racing or bungee jumping for me... or so I thought.
Today was a whole new day. I entered the world of Earth Treks in Rockville, MD. Now I had no idea what rock climbing was about. No idea what it would look like. I knew it was an indoor gym of some sort with rocks to climb. Boy did I have no idea what I was getting in to. I entered the door, met my good friend Josh, and walked into what looked like the interior of someone's mouth. That's right. I felt like a dentist walking into a life size set of gums. These huge peach walls with their curves and ripples towered above me covered in these multi-colored hand grips and foot rests along the way. Each route taped in a different color and labeled for difficulty at the base. You might think the numbering would start at 1 or even 0 for the beginner level. But rock climbing is an activity that marches to its own beat. Numbering begins at 5 and then levels are added in increments such as 5.1 or 5.2. These would be "easy" climbs whereas a 5.9 or 5.10 would be for the most skilled climber.
After receiving my harness, we walked to the beginner wall, which I might add is 40 feet in the air!!!! I thought rock climbing would be a series of rock hills to climb up with large flags at the top. Sort of like hiking but on rock. While there are grooves within the rock and archways on some paths, most of the climbing goes in one direction.... up.
Despite very sore hands and a few attempts, I made it to the top of one of the beginner problems labelled 5.3. "Problem" is the term used to describe the trail one selects to climb. You have to solve the "problem" by figuring out which hand grips and foot rests to use within that trail to reach the top. Needless to say, I did look down a number of times and scream for my life. I am certainly still afraid of heights after my first exposure. However, I never thought I would make it to the top of anything, relying on someone else supporting me by a string. Call it rope or what you will, its still a string tied to me and someone else through a series of knots, and I was hanging by it. I am in awe of this subculture of rock climbers. Not only is it a physically demanding activity, it is a mentally demanding activity. I have shaken off what has become my comfort zone for some time and entered the world of vertical pegs. A bit tired and a bit shocked but very inspired.