Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lowdown and The Poet Laureate of Rock Climbing

My rock climbing gym opened a new location. There's:

The Old Crappy Gym and
The Monstrosity

Mike, Patti and I hit The Old Crappy Gym first since the new one wasn't slated to open until noon for the grand opening celebration. Mike and Patti started lead climbing and, since the gym was pretty empty, I wondered if I should attempt the lead climbing test again. As soon as I started thinking about it, my heart starting beating faster despite Patti telling me to stay calm.

I went and got a short rope to practice on one route and I knew that I needed to take the test while I still had something in the tank. I went to the front desk to announce my intention.

Dude comes over and gives me the lowdown:

  • No back clipping

  • No z-clipping

  • No missed clips

  • No rest

  • The only time I will be allowed to rest is after the fall

  • Sure, no problem, and thanks for reminding me to relax.

    I thought the whole "no rest" thing was a bit much because I see lead climbers resting all the time. Does taking a rest mean that you're not a safe climber?

    I take a deep breath and, as my mother likes to say, there's no experience like bought experience. I do not miss the second clip this time and there's a certain amount of relief knowing that I'm on belay after the second clip.

    I'm told that when I get to the hold with a split in it -- above the fifth clip, I need to fall and I don't hesitate because I just want to get it over with. I let go and I'm so pleased when I stop falling. I get my rest and I chalk up and I hear Patti from below shouting out encouragement but I'll be damned if a rock that I've been able to step up on (from the side) gives me problems and, that's it, the test is over because I can't step up on that one rock.

    After the fall, I thought about how close I was to the top and I kept thinking no mistakes; don't blow it. Even though I didn't get my lead certification, I feel much better about this test than the last one and I don't think that I should have been "failed" because of one misstep. I don't think that I've ever seen a lead climber ascend a route flawlessly or without a hiccup but the staff member said that he was "failed" for a similar misstep. Whatever...

    We head out to The Monstrosity and I'm glad that we went to The Old Crappy Gym first because the new gym was jam packed since there was free climbing for everyone.

    Leah wrote this Macbeth inspired poem after my first attempt at the lead climbing test.

    Clipping, and clipping, and clipping,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last attempt of leaded climb,
    And all our yesterdays have lighted there
    The way to dusty falls. Out, out, brief misclip!
    The test but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets its hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by our eventual victor, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.
    And Leah was so in love with the new gym that I told her I felt an How Do I Love Thee? inspired piece was surely on the horizon and it was:

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the new breadth and height
    My limbs can reach, when climbing out of sight
    For the endless routes to flash and onsight.
    I love thee to the level of frictions'
    Most quiet help, by sun and fluorescent light.
    I love thee sorely, as Crossfit women Might;
    I love thee elegantly, to backstep on the crag.
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old gym, and with my harness tight.
    I love thee with crimps I seemed to use
    With my heel hooks,–I love thee short of breath,
    Smiles, smears, of step throughs!–and, if routes choose,
    I shall love thee better after the arete

    I've enjoyed all of Leah's poems but felt that she really nailed the last line in "How Do I Love Thee?." I've officially dubbed her The Poet Laureate of rock climbing...


    1. Cute--I love the Keats re-write:-)


      That new gym looks cool and so intimidating. Someday I need to tell you about all the places people go rock climbing around here--we just redid a trail at Seneca Rocks--supposed to be a good place to climb . . . . (well, it's three hours from here--but feels close enough).

    2. (btw--I've tried to comment on some posts the last couple of weeks and sometimes it seems like Google won't recognize my ID--it's weird)

    3. Third time will be the charm. In the meantime, you're collecting very cool test stories, not to mention poetry. :)

      And I like the poetry in the style of Shakespeare and Browning, although for some reason rock-climbing reminds me of Wallace Stevens (USA) and Archibald Lampman (Canada).

    4. Wait - wait a minute, now. You have to FALL? You mean you have to let go of the rope and FALL????

      OMG. You are 1000 times braver than I will ever be. I could not do that.

      I'm so glad you tried again! Seems as though the trick is having everything go perfectly that one time, then you're good to go. So it's just a matter of time...

    5. @Laura,

      I would love to hear about the rock climbing places in your area. Prepare yourself for a visitor soon thereafter. ;)

      And we definitely feel like kids in a candy store at the new gym.


      The story that I will treasure the most is the one when I get to say that I did it; I passed the test. Hopefully, I'll get to pen that story soon.

      I'll have to check out Archibald Lampman's poetry -- never heard of him...


      It's more like letting go of the rope and wall. :)

      I can definitely see the rationale behind making you fall. I just wish that I would have passed the test because now I have to contend with falling again and, actually, if I'm going to lead climb, falling will always be a possibility.

      Looks like I'm going to have to order more bravery...