To “bouldly” go…

Pardon the terrible title, but I’m really stoked about this:

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I DID THAT. Me, of no innate athletic ability! Will wonders never cease?

Perhaps you don’t understand. I haven’t done anything quite so physically demanding ever.

Not even running. Running is hard, and the pain isn’t pretty. You’re pretty much in your head and you’re constantly tripping over your own feet and gasping for air like someone’s choking you the entire time. At least that’s how I feel. But this, this is all sorts of WTF-ery and awesome! Welcome to the whole new world of bouldering.

From what I understand, bouldering is rock climbing but without the rope/belay system. Routes are classified by difficulty, and there are several different types of walls with inclines and overhangs to simulate real rock faces. I’ve never really been to a bouldering gym before–though I did work for my campus rec center that had a rope climbing wall. I knew people bouldered there but our walls were tall and mostly straight. Enter Sunday afternoon with my friends Steph and Jon, who are my outdoors icons. They’ve been after me for months to come climb with them, and it wasn’t until this week that I felt somewhat worthy of attempting. Luckily, they had free time and I managed to scamper away for a few hours to try my hand at the walls.

I was a bit scared to climb. The floors are thickly padded, but you’re still (in my opinion) quite a few feet from the ground (about 10 feet high? at the most?) which is more than enough height for me. My friends were really great at making the experience feel safe and for providing valuable advice on positioning and how to get started. I tend to be hard on myself and I hate it when I feel like people are judging my performance, especially on something new that I haven’t had a chance to develop skills at. Kind of counterintuitive right? I’m trying to work on this flaw, but I’m really grateful there were very few people there and that S & J were super welcoming and helpful. I was able to relax and just view it as a fun activity rather than something I could potentially “fail” at.

Mental misgivings aside, once I actually did grab hold and get my feet on, it was just all logistics. Bouldering routes (called “problems” in bouldering-lingo) are graded using the Hueco scale or V scale. Beginners’ problems start at VB or V0 and can theoretically go all the way to V16 (I didn’t see anything higher than a V8 today.) I mostly stuck to VB’s though I did try a couple V0’s–some at the straight wall and other problems at walls with slight angles. V0’s are a bit too much for me at the moment strength-wise. VB’s were great fun! I can’t wait to go back and try my hand at a couple more. There’s a lot to get used to–the different types of holds/grips, how to move your feet, not to mention the mental preparation of looking at the route/problem itself and kind of planning a mode of attack. It’s great for building problem-solving skills and there’s the added challenge of physically transporting yourself up the wall in an efficient and clean manner.

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See the purple rock tagged VB near the bottom of this shot? That’s the start of the route. Even if you can reach a rock higher up than the tagged one, you’re supposed to start your hands and feet at or below the tagged rock.

I can’t believe I made it! Of course I’m hurting quite a lot now–I feel it in my biceps, triceps, forearms and traps, but I haven’t felt so hungry and buff in a while. I inhaled my dinner and some potato chips tonight. I’m still jonesin’ for ice cream, and I might eat that after I type this. Of course, all this fitness is really just so I can afford to keep eating like I have been, for as long as my cholesterol levels can sustain it. Terrible plan, but it’s exciting.

That’s it for me for this weekend. Now I know I’ve got to do some thinking about how to best train/keep in shape for future bouldering adventures.

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