Monday, June 11, 2012

baby, there ain't no mountain high enough

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Acadia - learning how to tie knots, set anchors, and climbing over the ocean. I've been rock climbing in a gym since November, but this was the first time I've ever climbed outside and you know what? It was breathtaking, exhilarating and really, really difficult.

Lu and I drove up Friday evening after work. Luckily we didn't hit any traffic and made it to the B&B at around 11:00pm. France had already been there and had checked in so we settled in and pretty much went right to bed because we had to be up early to start the weekend-o-climbing. We had the "penthouse" of the B&B (aka the attic), but it was way more space than we needed for three people. The reason why we chose a B&B as opposed to a hotel was so that we wouldn't have to worry about breakfast. The owners were wonderful and the food was SO GOOD. We definitely made the right choice. Living alone, I have really come to appreciate when someone cooks me delicious, butter-laden breakfasts.

damn, we even make climbing helmets look good
Over the weekend I did a lot more learning than climbing. I think I maybe climbed a total of five routes over the entire weekend, maybe six? But I think the point was more to learn how to safely set up your own climbs when you're in any setting. We learned how to set anchors using both tools and natural objects (ie trees and huge rocks) - which is surprisingly simple considering that it carries your body weight over places like the ocean, and mountain faces. You know, no big deal. I learned that I can rappel myself down the rocks without hurting myself (mostly), and then climb back up to where my belayer is. Case in point:

Climbing outside is totally, without a doubt, completely different than climbing in a rock gym. Indoors you have labeled routes that have their difficulty ratings displayed. Outdoors there are often several ways (with varying difficulty ratings) to climb the same route. Anything goes when you're outdoors. This means that you end up doing things like shoving your ENTIRE leg into a crack in order to get some leverage.

Another difference between indoor vs. outdoor was the height of the climbs. My rock gym has fairly low walls, so it was definitely an adjustment to the high routes in Acadia. I usually like to scramble up the rocks as quickly as possible, but that wasn't really an option here. There are all sorts of crevices in the rock that you have to explore - so you end up spending some time feeling around and seeing where your next hold will be because sometimes it can be a little hidden.

I really liked that I was able to try out techniques that are harder to replicate in a gym setting. I'd never done any crack climbing and it is NOT easy, but is sure is fun. One example is a "layback" climb. You essentially jam your arms into the crack and shimmy up the rock. It's a little odd to get into the position, but once you do, it's actually much less tiring than trying to straight climb.

My big accomplishment of the weekend was climbing my first 5.11. I haven't even climbed that in the gym! The first half of the route was a 5.8 (which is doable for me), and the 5.11 bit was ALL crack climbing and all straight up. The instructors referred to this as a "chicken wing" movement, and that really makes a lot of sense. You shove your hands and feed into the crack and use the tension and to keep you close to the wall and (hopefully) moving upwards. This route definitely tested my endurance. By the time I go up to the more challenging part I was definitely feeling tired. Luckily, I had a belayer I could trust and was able to hang back and stretch out my arms for a bit before getting back on the wall. Apparently I am very comfortable with crack climbing. I'm not sure what this says about me. All good things, I hope?

There was one little blip along the way. One of the guides asked me and Lu to set up an anchor for a route that would require us to rappel down to the bottom (a couple of feet above the water) and then climb up. We did as we were told and I hooked up and rappelled myself down to the bottom. Once I got down there I realized that it was entirely too difficult for me. I started to get anxious because I couldn't see or hear Lu and that meant that she couldn't see or hear me either. After ten minutes of trying to climb and asking the guide for help, I started to panic and began to cry. I ended up needing to be hauled most of the way up the wall and when I finally came over the edge I ran into Lu's arms and proceeded to ugly cry for an embarrassing amount of time. I was sent into a route that was beyond my abilities. An important lesson is to always be aware of what you're climbing, and to make sure that you have someone you trust to belay you. I didn't get hurt, but it's a really sobering reminder that you really need to be careful when you're climbing!

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. For those of you who haven't been to Bar Harbor/Acadia, I highly recommend it. Who wouldn't want a view of this for their climbs?

1 comment:

Lu said...

I could never ask for a better belay partner. Also, have I reminded you lately how freakin' *proud* of you I am!?! -L