Sunday, 10 January 2010

How High Up???

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." ~ H. Jackson Browne

I finally made it back into the pool last Thursday morning. It was my first swim of 2010 and I managed a solid 2000 m. Huh. In hindsight I should have swum 2010 m!

The best part of going to the pool is seeing my fellow mermen and mermaids there. It was so good seeing the gang there. It's funny because even though it can seem like a bit of a social event, having a little chat or laugh here and there, they actually push me to swim better. Just knowing Sue is at my feet or Garney is pushing off at the same time in the next lane, or Chris is checking to see if Sue and I are chatting rather than swimming! That keeps me going and trying to improve.

I can't express how much I'm going to miss them when I move back to BC. Maybe I can pack them all up and take them with me?!

The evening held other adventures with me...this time on land. Sort of.

I had mentioned to my fellow search and rescue (SAR) buddy, Jim, that I was hoping to do more indoor climbing this year as a way to face my fear of heights. I've been only twice before - the last time in October.

He has been climbing for years so offered to have me join him and his group on Thursdays. They climb at The Crux in Calgary. I'd never been to the Crux so I looked it up on the internet to see what it was like.

Oh, look at that....the Crux's claim to fame being one of the tallest climbing gyms in North America. Exactly how high up is one of the tallest climbing gyms?? It didn't take me long to find that information. Holy hannah, it has 72 ft tall walls!! Gulp.... This could be interesting.

Jim and I carpooled to the gym and I mentioned again my fear of heights but my enthusiasm for learning how to climb. He was undaunted and enthusiastic. Just wait till we get to the gym I thought!

We got there, I signed my life away and got ready for the belay test. For anyone who hasn't climbed indoors before, the belay test is essentially where the gym tests the fact that you know how to hold on to the rope that your partner is dangling from and that even if they fall you WILL NOT LET GO! Oh, and also it tests that you know how to tie yourself in using a figure eight knot that won't undo while you are dangling from a 'make my cry' height.

Before Sean, my tester, came by, Jim showed me the gym. This is what it looks like from the ground...
My knees started to shake and I wasn't even off the ground yet!

It was test time. I tied my knot fine. Then it was time for Jim to start climbing as I belayed. (Note: they make your buddy do the climbing so you REALLY won't want them to fall and hate you forever!) He started climbing and Sean said 'Ok let go of the rocks' to Jim. He was good enough to do this while Jim wasn't too far off the ground.

Jim let go. But I held on and he didn't fall.

Then Sean instructed Jim to start climbing again and to let go 'whenever'. The bigger test. Making sure you don't let go of the rope and drop your partner if he/she takes a slip.

Jim can climb pretty fast. I was watching like a hawk waiting for him to 'fall'. He was up a fair distance when vwoop! He let go. Next thing I knew my feet weren't touching the ground and I was sailing through the air towards the wall! Aiyeeee! I stopped myself from hitting the wall by putting my legs straight out and hitting it with my feet. You'll be happy to know, as Jim was, that I never go of the rope through all of this. Even though I couldn't touch the mats. Phew.

I even had to lower Jim while I was hanging around. Both of us made it to the mats safe and sound though. Honestly, it was a good thing to have happen so I know what it feels like. Just a side note; they have tethers in the floor so you can attach yourself in order to prevent that from happening when you are belaying someone heavier than you.

I passed the test so now it was my turn to climb. I started climbing but almost from the start my heart was pounding and my hands were sweaty. I made it maybe half way and I asked Jim to lower me. I had to get a grip on my fear! When I got down to terra firma I apologized for being such a wuss. Jim said not to worry and asked if he could give me a couple of pointers that help me. Of course I accepted!

We moved over to another spot in the gym so Jim could climb. Then it was my turn again. This time armed with my tips I had a much better climb. I was still shaking a bit and had to stop at one point to get my breathing under control. I started climbing and was near the top when I slipped. It still amazes me that I slipped because normally I'm clinging to the rocks.

I gotta say, I have no idea how guys climb. You see when I slipped, my harness hiked up nice and close on me. Not a big deal for me because I have girl junk. And girl junk can handle some squishing. Guy junk though? How is it they fall and get squished and don't let out a blood curtling scream is beyond me. I mean that harness was SNUG people. And that's all I'll say about I that.

Now here is something I am most proud of. I didn't scream when I fell! Granted I did emit a rather loud EEP! which Jim claims he heard aprproximately 65 ft below. Still though, it was not a scream! I kept climbing and I managed to climb almost to the top! My arms were tired though and I couldn't find a good foot hold so asked to be lowered. Dang, I was only one rock away!!

The next time up Jim suggested I let go and 'hang around' a bit to give my arms a break. Riiiight. LET GO?! I knew it would help though. So I tried again and when I got tired I yelled 'take' and then let go. I thought for sure my heart was going to pump right out of my chest. I could hear Jim saying 'okay, now shake your arms a bit!' ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS MAN?? So I shook them. Kind of. Then I grabbed hold of the rocks. Then let go and shook again. And I didn't die. Always a good thing.

I am still not sure how I managed all this without fainiting, but I did. I never did make it to the top - I tried hard though! I need to build some strength up I think. I was close twice though and to me that counts. Plus, it gives me something to strive for.

The gang meets every Monday and Thursday. I can't go on Mondays, but I will be going on Thursdays. At some point I will make it to the top! Then maybe I can try climbing just the taped rocks!

By comparison the rest of the weekend was rather tame. I managed a solid set of legs and back (P90X) and the rest of the time I spent in a First Aid course. So other than the fact that I had various body parts in splints, there are no other adventures to report.

Peace out my friends.


  1. Sounds like a blast! I used to do some climbing with my bro in Winnipeg. The biggest thing that made the biggest difference(I'm sure Jim already told you this) was to climb with straight arms. It goes against instinct as normally you'll want to pull yourself up against the rock, but you seriously save sooo much energy by keeping straight arms and your forearms don't take a beating. :)

  2. That is seriously a long way up. I have much too low a power to weight ratio to even consider climbing. Unless it suddenly becomes very necessary.

  3. That sounds like soo much fun!! I predict you will get to the top the next time you climb. :) :) :)

    A similar thing happened to me once when I was belaying --- I shot up through the air and smacked my head against the squash court entrance -- the climbing area in Sparwood is very small and probably doesn't meet any kind of code...OW!!!!!

  4. Good on yah for facing one of your fears!

  5. Oh Susi! I want to come climb with you and your group! That's a good way to conquer a fear of heights if I've ever heard of one. Especially falling and trusting that your belayer (how do you spell that?) is going to catch you.

    I love climbing indoors. It's the ONE activity I've found in life that no matter how I feel going to the gym, I will have a great time and love every minute of it. That was my thing before Triathlon.

    Have fun!!!!!

  6. Your lats will be huge and you'll look like you're flying pretty soon. Looks like a blast. It's so expensive around here that I'm a little afraid of it....or that I'd find another hobby that I like.

  7. we had to do the repel thingy for some of our adventure races. they dont usually make you climb but they do like to dangle you off a cliff if they can. so we went to a place like yours and tried both the ascending and the repelling. and you are right about how painful it is to get that stuff smashed. the straps come together and pretty much touch between your legs. stingy! i think there is skill in getting the straps to more cradle you than cut through stuff, but i dont know it! eek!

  8. Sounds like a really fun adventure-minus the fall part but I'm glad you didn't get hurt. Way to face your fears and try something new. I mean I almost threw up when I saw how high that wall was in the picture-you go girl!

    Also, how are you liking the P90X? I have friends who do it and LOVE it.

    Happy New Year!

  9. I'm a whole lot better at falling than climbing but that might relate to the size of my ass.