My goodness! Where have we been? What have we been doing? It seems like it’s been so long since we talked, I know, I know. I’ve been busy, you’ve been busy, just couldn’t quite connect. But it’s good that we are talking again, finally. So, to bring you up to date, I went climbing last Monday and Tuesday. I found a rock climbing guide who was certified and experienced so that he could teach me how to be safe while on the wall. He was recommended by two separate climbing shops here in town, and he’s been up Aconcagua ten times as a guide, which is pretty impressive for someone who’s only 28.
He picked me up at 8am for the 3 hour drive to Arenales. We went up the very same valley that Erin and her dad went fly fishing in. We arrived at the refugio, which is just a shack, to be honest. We shooed the cows and horses away from the building and threw all our sleeping bags and food in the shelter. Then he started to pull out gear. The amount and weight of it alone was crazy. I was learning how to do traditional climbing, aka “trad”, he brought a whole slew of anchors to put in different situations. I knew the names and uses of most, but it was good to review and go over everything. Especially since everything was in spanish. You couldn’t just say “quickdraw,” “carabiner,” or “cam.” It was “espres,” “moscaton,” and “fier.” This translation of everything made for some difficultly, but not really. The most difficult part was the actual setting of the anchors. Imagine hanging on a wall with about 30 extra pounds of gear attached to your belt, looking at a crack in the wall and trying to figure out which type of anchor to use, and then decide which size will fit the best. For me, there was a lot of time and energy wasted trying to do this. But rather safe then sorry, which was the reason I was there.
We would then get to the top of the pitch and we would set up a belay station where we would both be at equal height on the wall, hanging from the same anchors. Setting this up safely was another part of the course. Then, we had lunch up on the wall. Kind of hokey, but kind of fun. We spent a lot of time going up, setting up pulley systems to bring up the haul bag, dropping it down, going up, going down, setting anchors, and fun things like that. At the end, we did a 3 pitch route, which was the end goal of the course.
I’ve been climbing in gyms for a long time now, since about 2002 or so, when I first started getting into it because of some friends. But my outdoor climbing experience was much smaller. The fear factor is something that takes a while to get over, and I still haven’t really. Indoor, everything is controlled, there’s very little that can go wrong. The gym is setup to be safe. Outdoor is different because the safety factor falls squarely on your shoulders. In addition, it’s just a little crazy. For instance, I was on the last pitch of our climb, and I had a hand-foot match (where the foot comes up to be on the same ledge as the hand) but, when I looked down to find the ledge, I saw the ground was 150ft down. It just makes your head swirl a little bit before you get used to it. But then you look at all the safety mechanisms and realize that you really are quite safe, in a strange way.
All in all, I really enjoyed it. I’m definitely ready to start climbing more, so watch out Idaho!