Climb to the top of a rock wall (2008, 2010)

Goal Accomplished! Climb to the top of a rock wall

Climbing the rock wall at night, 2010.
I’m standing at the top on the right.

A list item born from regret, I added this after realizing I regretted not reaching the top of a rock wall on my 8th grade trip at a family fun center. I felt like the climbing holds were too far apart, and even with the staff member telling me which limb to put on which hold, and my mom saying that I was almost to the top, I gave up. I was scared that I would fall off, and it seemed like such a far distance to fall (even with the safety harness and rope).

Learning to climb

When I got to college, I found out that the campus had a bouldering wall (a shorter wall with horizontal paths) and a climbing wall (taller wall with vertical paths and overhangs), and promised myself that no matter how scared I was, I would reach the top of at least one of them.

After a short orientation, they told me it was free to climb whenever the wall was open. The person who gave me the orientation also helped me learn to climb, teaching me to push with my legs, keep my hips close to the wall, and know how to switch feet on even the tiniest holds. I learned that my climbing experience in 8th grade would have greatly benefited from an orientation beyond “Ring the bell when you get to the top. This rope will catch you if you fall.”

We didn’t even use ropes when I climbed the bouldering wall in college, because you are not likely to seriously injure yourself from a fall off that wall. The ropes (belaying) were used on the climbing wall only and would have required more training and a second person (to hold the rope). Instead, I learned to be a spotter for another climber and how to slow their fall (not catch them) if they slipped off the bouldering wall. I also learned how to fall off the wall with the least injuries (in case I was climbing without a spotter and started to feel myself slipping).

After the safety lessons, my teacher talked me to the top of the bouldering wall and encouraged me to follow the horizontal routes along the wall as well.

Accomplishing the goal

Because the bouldering wall was short, I felt like my experience climbing didn’t match the picture in my head about this goal. Luckily, when I attended a friend’s wedding, I had an opportunity to redo this goal.

The reception was held at a community center building, and the park it was next to had two climbing rocks. The rocks were also not that tall (about 10-12 feet), but they were much more difficult than my bouldering wall experience, since this time, we were climbing in the dark (it was after the reception ended), and there was no one coaching me.

Partway up, I realized that I had picked the harder side of the rock, and when I was almost at the top, I injured my hip. I pretended that I was okay, because I was embarrassed, and because I have bad hips that get hurt often, so I figured it was manageable. We goofed around on the top for a while and then everyone headed back down to the ground.

The rock seemed really tall then. The holds were miles apart, and at angles that my hurting body couldn’t reach. People started asking if I was okay. The ground was suddenly very far away and I flashed back to 8th grade, convinced I was going to fall off, this time without a safety rope.

I finally gave up the charade, figuring I’d already embarrassed myself the most I could, apart from falling, which would have been more embarrassing than asking for help. Someone came over and put their hands up so I could step in them, and then helped me off the rock. I mumbled excuses mixed with thank yous, and hoped that the open bar at the wedding reception meant that I would be the only one to remember this part of the night.

Have you gone rock climbing? What was your experience like?


If you’re new to climbing, here’s an article that explains the basics: Getting Started Rock Climbing

Also, in this TED talk, Matthew Childs shares 9 lessons he learned from climbing, which are applicable to life in general. My favorite is “Fear sucks. It means you’re not focusing on what you’re doing, you’re focusing on the consequences of failing at what you’re doing.” I wish I had heard this before I tried climbing. Thinking of it that way might have given me more confidence to complete that rock wall in 8th grade.


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