Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not yet a human fly

Well, I've had my first attempt at climbing... and it was really good fun.

Just like the first time I went mountain biking, there was an initial period where I had to make a step change in my perception of what is possible. Watching Phil or Nik flow up the wall and even across the roof really opened my eyes. But more than that, I had to open my own ability to commit to things. An interesting head game - just the kind of thing I like (see riding planks).

So, under the tuition of Phil, off I went to try to figure things out. Bouldering was hard with no clear idea of where I was going and the need to swing my feet around to make any progress. Still, I managed a couple of little moves, even if they did require close direction from the ground.

Then over to an inclined wall with holds on it. "If you saw someone riding a mountain bike the way you're holding onto that wall, you'd laugh at them". OK, lots to think about - stop stressing my arms so much and use those legs that I spend so long building up. I try to relax and stand more, rather than trying to pull myself along. I try to remember how lazy and economic Phil's motion is. As I start to make my way up, he advises to me to pretend the wall is a woman and lean right into it (little did he know there's a specific woman in mind these days, but that's a whole other story). At maybe 2m up, I am up close and personal with the wall and he tells me to put my hands behind my back. It's scary, but I don't fall off. That's interesting - maybe I'm more stable than I thought. I go up a bit further and then freak out a bit. I can't see where I could go next and there's a bit of ball/harness interaction going on.

Back on the ground, I watch Graham getting a lesson in how to belay. It looks kinda hard, but a responsibility that I'll have to take at some point. Whether he's working for Phil or Nik, they both make it look easy. Damn them.

Eventually I get back to the wall where I'd freaked out but this time with more commitment. I take some useful direction from the ground. I accept that, if I fall, the rope (and Nik on the end of it) will hold me. And I make it all the way to the roof. A claimed 7m according to the internet (which we know never lies), but I'm awful at judging distance. This time the grin is huge when my feet hit the floor. Another sport that's not as good as mountain biking, but very good all-the-same.

We do some other stuff, and as my confidence builds my arms decide they aren't having it any more. It's great to watch the others tackling their own progression, and I feel eager to push my own. I had expected fear of heights to be a big problem and, in a way, I feel cheated. Since I was concentrating so hard on what I was doing, I just sidestepped the fear, instead of having to conquer it. Maybe that is a kind of conquest. I do know that trying to raise my hand to eat an apple seemed like an awful lot of effort and if that isn't a sign of an evening well spent, then I don't know what is.

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