Very little is required to present myself as a cyclist. First, I need to decide which of my two bikes I want to ride. Secondly, I need to take the chosen bike outside. Next, I straddle the bike. Finally, I go nowhere in particular and then return!
So much more is involved in climbing. I’ve pulled on plastic for ten years, climbing only indoors because getting to the crags requires a car. To go to the climbing gym, though, I still need to find someone to accompany me. Preferably somebody who likes me, but most importantly, somebody who I can trust to not drop me. Then, this special somebody needs to have a work schedule that does not conflict with mine. I need to know only one type of knot, the figure eight.
To climb outdoors is an even bigger challenge. Other than a car, I would need at least one climbing partner who knows how to build and clean anchors, as well as lead climb and belay. I would have to get used to reassuring my friends and family that, yes, I will be careful. There’s a surprising amount of knot tying knowledge needed.
I may not prefer climbing over cycling, but because the opportunities to go climbing outdoors have been so sporadic, I’d choose climbing every time.
I had to overcome many reasons to decline this trip. It was going to put me in the woods on a far-away island with six hearing people I hardly knew. I’d be experiencing hearing people in 360 degrees. They’d be able to see the top of my head and judge me for not bleaching my roots often enough!
Generally, climbers are an odd bunch. We’re people who keep our fingernails super-short on purpose. Outdoor climbing routes have the most random names like Sphincter Quits, Saggy Jugs and Child-Bearing Clips, and Edible panties. If this group couldn’t handle a moderate kook like me, they had no business being climbers.
The first day went alright, but on the second day our group prepared to rappel off a precipice for the first time, and I was not ready. The words of encouragement were genuine, but I felt that the group had overestimated the amount of information that had been relayed to me. Everybody had been given a book while I only received a few torn-out pages.
I congratulate you on your confidence, group, but I’m not going down with you!
Of course, the book is only a metaphor. I’m usually good at filling in the blanks, but it was too risky to roll with it. I ended up filling in the blanks with feelings of inadequacy. I thought out a chapter on being excluded. The story concluded with me walking 10 kilometres back to the campsite on my own.
I acknowledged that my mind was not present, making it unsafe for me to climb. I knew the walk would clear my head, but then I’d have to explain to the group why I did what I did. The two hours it took to reach the campsite was enough to formulate a non-off-putting explanation for my early departure. The stretch of road I followed was lined with wild blackberries, giving me sticky, red hands upon arrival at the campsite, rather than dirty mitts from a day hanging off cliffs.
Some of them asked me what they could have done differently to make me feel more included. Uh, learn sign language? Although that would have taken more than just a couple of days to pull off. I’d have appreciated not being rushed through the lessons. I know the gang was trying to be encouraging, but please let me catch up first!
I was excited about the camping portion of the trip too. For some, sleeping on an air mattress inside a dome of thin nylon is a drawback to camping. I find it refreshing! It helps that it’s not something I have to do year-round.
The majority of the sport climbing routes on Quadra Island are easy. The first route I got to lead climb in years was only a 5.6. This is a grade I’ve always been able to climb effortlessly, even when I was brand new to the sport. However, when I found myself standing on a ledge with the climbing rope hanging between my legs, I realized a fall would be more catastrophic on a 5.6 route, than on a climb where the rock face is vertical (5.9 or harder).
If you’ve never climbed, top roping is when the climber has tied one end of a rope through the loops of their harness, and the rope is fed through an anchor that is above the climber at all times. (See the first photo in this post.) Lead climbing is when the climber has one end of a rope secured to their harness and starts the route with nothing to arrest their fall. Only when the climber clips the first quickdraw through the bolt in the rock and slips a rope through the biner is the climber then somewhat protected.
I was careful. Not only because Yann asked me to, but because my plans for what’s left of summer involve the use of my limbs. Getting injured sucks: I would not recommend it to anybody.
Frustrations of the second day aside, I’m glad I went on this trip. I may still not be comfortable with the idea of cleaning anchors (which involves rappelling), but I now feel confident about lead climbing. Hopefully, I’ve roped in enough new climbing partners to be able to better dedicate myself to the sport!
If you ever find yourself on Quadra Island and decide that rock climbing isn’t for you, take comfort in the knowledge that Tru Value Foods in Heriot Bay carries the NUMBER ONE DOT-TO-DOT MAGAZINE IN THE WORLD!
Not to shame those who are into dot-connecting; I’m amazed that there’d be more than one magazine dedicated to dot-connecting. Connect with nature. Or dots.
Whatever helps you relax and unwind!