Thursday, November 02, 2017

Up Against The Wall

Regular readers will recall, I wrote about El Capitan.  That led me to check the Anchorage rock climbing gym.  And last night I went with a friend for the intro class.

The intro class meets 7pm - 9pm M,W, and F. For $20 you get a lesson and equipment.  And as I mentioned last time they suggested bringing a buddy.  Though that didn't really turn out to be necessary, there were people who needed partners in the group of folks.

There's a long iPad form to fill out and initial waiving all sorts of things, mostly about if you get hurt.  And climbing shoes, despite looking really comfortable, aren't.  I started with a size 8.  Way too tight.  A size 9.  Still too tight.  When I got the size 10 I realized others weren't wearing socks.  But even without the socks it squeezed my toes.

Then we checked out the boulder room upstairs.  And then we went back down to the big climbing walls.   There are different climbing routes up the wall, each with its own color, a sign that designates its level of difficulty, and which rope (hanging down from near the ceiling) goes with that route.

We had been given harnesses which we had on like shorts made of straps.  Since I didn't take pictures I'm linking to an REI page on how to pick a harness.  Then we got shown how to tie the double eight knot for the climber and how to attach the carabiner and the belaying device.  I should have taken pictures, but I was caught up in the class.  The links will fill you in.  I'd note the way we learned to make the double eight knot was different.

Then we watched the instructors climb - actually the attention was on the belaying, not on the climber - and then it was our turns.

It wasn't really hard.  The belaying device holds the climbers even when they are hanging free and you can let them down slowly or more quickly.  So after the class was over and we got our belayer certificates, we went back and tried some more difficult routes.  Not too much more difficult.

Finally, I remembered to take some pictures.  Here's my partner up on the wall part way.

He looks so much more agile than I do in the picture he took of me.  But, then, something I only thought of afterward, was that his name is Cliff, so he should be more at home on the wall.  And he's climbed before.

We were going up a green route.

It was fun and after being in Yosemite and learning a bit about climbers, I just really wanted to learn about how the ropes and belaying works.  Climbing up was not too difficult on the easy paths, though you have to work harder on the more difficult ones.  Letting go of the wall and holding on to the rope and letting your partner belay you down was probably the coolest part.  It takes some faith to just let go.

Will I go back?  Probably not.  I got what I wanted.  And it's kind of like swimming indoors.  I so much prefer the ocean.  This is much easier than climbing outside - everything is there and ready for you to just climb.

What I got was the most basic experience in climbing and a better appreciation for the safety measures climbers take and the feel of being way up on the wall.   If I were forty of fifty years younger, I might have decided to try some real climbing.  But I am thinking about next time my granddaughter visits Anchorage.  There were kids climbing the boulders.

[UPDATED Nov. 2, 2017 4:30pm  - When people worry about the danger of mountain climbing, I'd note that mountain climber Fred Beckey died the other day at age 94.  Here's the start of an LA Times obituary:
"Legendary mountain climber Fred Beckey, who wrote dozens of books and is credited with notching more first ascents than any other American mountaineer, has died. He was 94.
Beckey died of natural causes in Seattle, said Megan Bond, a close friend who managed his affairs.
“He was an extraordinary mountaineer. He also had a personality and humor that almost dwarfed the mountains around him,” Bond said. “He was a brilliant writer. He was a scholar. He lived based on what was important to him, and he was not going to sell out.”
Beckey was known as much for his eccentric personality as for his singular obsession with climbing."]

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