It's winter in Indiana. The days are short, there's no snow for skiing, it's too cold to do anything else outside, and the doldrums are in full effect. So when I saw an orange flier on my mailbox advertising a wall-climbing gym opening in my neighborhood, I paid attention. Perhaps this would shake me out of my depressive state. I contacted my good friend who had expressed interest in wall-climbing before but I had always said "no". This time we set a date when we would be ready to "climb the walls". I've never tried this before, but how hard could it be, I thought. After all, I've been spending some serious time lifting weights and am in MUCH better shape than your average middle-aged woman.
We arrived at the climbing facility after I had a hectic day at work and I was mentally exhausted. I started to worry when I didn't understand all the words on the waiver. What does "belay" mean? They fitted each of us with a harness that fits over the pelvic region and for which I needed assisstance to adjust properly. I'm glad I didn't drink any coffee this afternoon, I thought to myself. They proceeded to give us a safety orientation, for obvious reasons. The guy who worked there was showing us how to tie the knots in the rope, thread the rope through some kind of device that keeps the rope from slipping, here's how you correctly belay, ect. I finally figured out that "belay" means you stay on the ground and control the safety rope (i.e. keep your friend from plunging to her death). The rest of the details were a little much for my fatigued brain to grasp, but I did my best.
I looked around. Little kids were clinbing successfully. I can do this!
My friend decided to climb first while I stayed on the ground. She sailed to the top without too much distress. Then it was my turn to climb. I quickly discovered that this was much more difficult that I anticipated. The holds were much too narrow for my extra-wide feet. My upper body strength did a disappearing act. I went as far as I could and asked my friend: how far up am I?
About four and a half feet, she said.
I thought it was at least five feet.
After about four more low-altitude efforts on my part, and successful trips to the top on her part, we were ready to call it a day. Then the safety-orientation guy came back. I see you're having some difficulty, he said to me.
Try this other wall, he said. The holds are wider, so I could get better leverage with my feet. Which was true, and this time I may have cracked the 10-foot elevation barrier. Then I got to the part where the holds were farther apart than my reach, and my progress stalled. I swung out from the wall supported by the pelvic harness, said I was done, and was gently lowered to the ground. This time we did call it quits for the day.
Just like shopping for clothes and shoes, this experience has convinced me that the world must be populated with tall people who have narrow feet.
Labels: rock-climbing, winter depression