Last week I went rock climbing near Independence Pass with two guides from Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. Full disclosure: I have been rock climbing before but not since middle school. At that time, lifting my body weight was an easy task.
Before I went, my dad said I shouldn’t be getting into rock climbing because it’s dangerous. I was familiar enough with the concept and was aware that if I fell, I wouldn’t go far. I figured a knee-knocking was likely my worst possible injury. (I had no injuries.)
My dad also said it’s an expensive sport, adding, “You couldn’t even afford a rope.” He’s got a lot of jokes.
Ryan Coulter, RMOC co-owner and adventure specialist, was my official guide. Guide-in-training Josh Elder came along to learn the RMOC ropes. (Pun intended.)
We climbed Monitor Rock past Twin Lakes. It is the newest climbing permit acquired by the outfitters, and Ryan was excited to test it out. Happily, Ryan took us to the sunny, dry side of the rock.
Climbing ropes need to be attached to the top of the pitch, which means someone needs to climb up to secure the rope. Ryan did the sport climbing, or lead. He attached himself to the bolts as he climbed so if he fell, he’d only fall the distance above the last bolt.
Once the rope was secured, it was attached to my harness, and I was given the go-ahead. Or in rock climbing slang, “Belay on.”
I climbed slowly, purposefully. Totally relying on the tension in the rope to assist me. Josh told me to use my legs more than my arms because legs are stronger. The point of rock climbing is not to do pull-ups, he said.
I did as he told me and I relied on my legs to move me up the rock and my arms as anchors. Josh and Ryan gave me pointers and suggestions every step of the way. Ryan was on the other end of my rope, belaying.
Josh asked if I’d like to learn how to belay, as it is “the other half of rock climbing.”
I replied, “Nah. That’s man’s work.”
And we laughed and laughed.
I tried to quit twice on my first route. At one point I got stuck when the hand holds got a little thin.
Then I tried to quit again when I was “almost” to the top. Josh said, “No. You’re almost there. You got to slap the carabiners!”
He was right, more than I wanted to quit, I wanted to slap those carabiners and say I made it to the top. So I did! In my ancient rock climbing days, I don’t recall making it to the top. I felt quite proud. When I came back down (which was fun, and Spiderman-feeling) my arms felt like jelly.
After a bit, I started up another line, but only made it about a quarter of the way up. I was too tired. This time Ryan did let me quit.
I’ve already scouted some friends to bring me along on their next climbing adventure.
Also, I‘m fairly sure I developed Hulk-like back muscles. That can happen after one climb, right?