…or “How I gave up my slothenly ways and learned to love bruised legs, rough hands and stinky feet.”
I’ve never really been much of a “sporty” kind of person. As a kid I played a few seasons of baseball, in the lower division, always outfield, at the bottom of the batting rank, or simply playing “left-right-out”. Played some footy, again in the lower divisions, couldn’t kick well, mark well, or tackle. Tried volleyball, athletics, soccer, hockey, played a couple of seasons of lacrosse, but I pretty much sucked at everything I tried. I was that kid who had a wardrobe full of the paraphernalia from a dozen sports, bundled away haphazardly, a graveyard of forgotten ambitions and half-assed commitment.
However I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, bushwalking, camping, fishing (I’m not very good at this either), and have done these things for most of my life. I was on skis at the age of 3, and remember skiing to school on more than one occasion when the snow was too deep to drive through. I’m not sure if any of this counts as being “sporty” though.
So by the time I was in my mid-thirties, I had pretty much resigned myself to a life of not doing much of anything except the occasional camping trip, preferring to spend my time drinking beer with friends than do anything physical.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was a complete sloth. I have never been afraid of a little hard work, digging, chopping, whatever. I once spent 16 days straight, from 7am to sun-down stripping off the faux-brick cladding from the boards on the outside of my house. That was hard work! I had some furious tendonitis in my fore-arms after this (screaming barfies), and didn’t sleep properly for days!
But this sort of work is just stuff that simply needs to be done. There’s little “I choose” for these types of physical activity, more the fact that tasks need to be completed. So yeah, I guess wasn’t what you’d call athletic.
I’d heard at family gatherings, Hayley’s brother Luke talk of how cool climbing was, but had a bivvy of excuses as to why it wasn’t for me (“Ooh that sounds like hard work, and I think it might rain, I’m afraid of heights, and besides my knee is really sore right now, so thanks, but no thanks”). However, Hayley took up the challenge as I knew she would.
So off to Nunawadding we journeyed, a place with a 21m wall and a lot of overhang, a great place to learn to crank plastic. My knee was the size of a watermelon that day, and I had dislocated it the night previous, so there was no way I was getting on the wall (that and the wind direction just wasn’t right, and the moon was in Sagittarius).
Afterwards, Hayley announced she was going with her brother Luke and our mentor Rich on an outdoor climb in a couple of weeks time! For some reason I was unable to go, (probably sunspots, or bad hair?) but when she returned with all the awesome stories of climbing a multipitch on her first outing, I had made up my mind it was time for me to take the plunge. This was further reinforced after Hayley returned home one day with a spanking new pair of Red Chili shoes and a Mammut harness. Jealousy of her cool gear, and the fact that I really felt like I was missing out on something special, was what finally got me into the gym, bumbling my way up a Grade 9 (read 5.1 in the American scale), sweating profusely, huffing and puffing like a steamtrain, forearms burning, toes aching, and full of adrenaline.
After the first time, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. Climbing is hard! I was sore, beaten, bruised, blistered. I climbed like shit and I knew it. But only the next day, I was hanging out for another climb. I was hooked! In fact, I started researching shoes, and I bought my first climbing video shortly after this (it was “Pilgrimage”, thus began my extensive collection of #climbingporn).
The guys organised a trip up to Cathederal, The North Jawbone. They decided on “Spiegal’s Overhang” for my first outdoor climb, a “very easy” and popular 4 pitch Grade 10 (5.2) with a slabby Grade 14 (5.7) finish. A one and a half hour drive led into a 45 minute walk/scramble up to the base of the Jawbone. Looking up at the climb ahead, I asked myself “What have I got myself into? This looks scary! AND HIGH! I’m going to fall! I’m going to die! Oh my god I really am going to die!”
It was difficult, and some of the moves were hard to pull, but I was up to the task. When we arrived at the top, I said to Rich “Seriously, thank you for taking me climbing. THAT was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life!”
I didn’t fall, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t die either. My knee didn’t explode. In fact, since climbing at the gym, my knee was stronger than ever. I had tried and conquered! I was the king of the world! And Hayley didn’t feel too shabby either! It was a brilliant day, and I had a real sense of achievement afterwards. The feeling of the rock, being out in the elements, pushing my body beyond what I thought possible, facing fears, learning, thinking, activating true excitement. This was it… at this moment, at the end of several hours of climbing, I was completely addicted. I fell in love that day, and that was just the beginning of my love affair with climbing! I’d like to thank Luke and Rich for getting us involved in the best thing I’ve ever done.
Stay tuned for “Why I love climbing pt 2” coming soon to a blog near you!