Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Rat Grew on Me

I showed up for Lead Climbing 101, a class that my rock climbing gym offers and while I was not a bundle of nerves, I was definitely nervous because, first, a second waiver was placed before me.

Everyone gets the rock climbing is inherently dangerous warning in books, gear, videos etc. but lead climbing is, apparently, and inherently even more dangerous...

It was an hour before we actually hit the wall, though, because we went over practical information about how to check one's rope for wear and tear, how to flake the rope, the anatomy of quickdraws and lead belaying which is definitely different from top rope belaying.

And we practiced clipping which didn't prevent me from back clipping when I actually started climbing.

I've actually forgotten what Nick, one of our instructors, said was the cardinal sin of lead climbing but I do know that I committed another cardinal sin -- lack of communication.

I was so focused on clipping that I forgot to tell Mike when I was clipping which is not cool; I should have been consistently communicating with my belayer, the most important person in my life when climbing.

It was a lot of information to take in about the delicate balance of giving enough slack but not too much or not pulling the climber off the wall because you have the rope too tight. I kept forgetting that a lead climber needs about three feet of rope when starting a route.

I didn't forget that you need to spot the climber in order to control their fall if they should happen to separate from the wall when starting his or her ascent and I didn't forget to holler rope when pulling the rope down to prevent some unsuspecting bystander from walking by and getting popped in the head.

You can give a climber a hard or soft fall. Through no skill of my own, I was able to give Mike a soft fall when he detached from the wall.

Trisha (co-instructor) asked for me to take a fall when I got past the fifth clip. It took a few moments for me to get composed which prompted Trisha to say trust your belayer, trust your belayer.

In my mind, it had nothing to do with trust. I know that Mike's a great belayer but I've never liked roller coaster rides. When I finally let go, I kept waiting to stop falling and I eventually did.

What can I say? Never trust an instructor with a rat tattoo on her arm. Actually, the rat grew on me.


  1. Three things:
    - "Never trust an instructor with a rat tattoo on her arm" is going into the memorable quotes file.
    - Every time I read your climbing posts I am more inclined to try out this rock climbing thing.
    - "Flake the Rope" would make a great name for a blog (or a rock band).

  2. Sounds rather scary to me! But so glad that you obviously enjoyed the class and succeeded. I never knew rock climbing was so complicated. Do you ever climb an outdoor mountain?

  3. @Mich,

    I need to see if I can get a picture of the tattoo since I'm completely intrigued now.

    :o, I like Flake the Rope for a title too.

    Also, you should definitely try climbing if you get a chance to...


    I definitely don't feel as secure on my feet with lead climbing but I'm not going to rush things or do anything that I don't feel comfortable with.

    BTW, I haven't climbed anything outdoors over 65 feet yet. ;)