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Posted on Apr 23, 2012 in Dear Diary, Working Out | 15 comments

Earth Trekking

First things first: holy mackerel! The entries for the V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Giveaway are still rolling in, so get your comments in before tomorrow morning for your chance to win! I love reading about all the various ways you all like to add sparkle to your lives — you inspired me to add a little to my fingernails while I was playing around in Sephora yesterday!

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Perhaps a little too much, haha.

At any rate, I hope you all had fabulous weekends, despite the ridiculous cold rain that’s been plaguing the DelMarVa region since Saturday evening. Bleh. I spent my weekend up in Columbia visiting my sister!

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Jenny, her husband, and I all got LivingSocial deals for an introductory rock climbing course at Earth Treks Climbing Center a few months back. Since they’re about to move to Houston (SOB!), we needed to use up our deals, so Saturday morning we ventured over to their Columbia location (they have a couple spread throughout Maryland).

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Harnesses. So hot right now.

The first forty-five minutes or so of the class were spent teaching us about how to properly put on our harnesses and tie the appropriate knots needed to strap ourselves in. We got the knot-tying down pretty fast, so it wasn’t long before our instructors had us move on to belaying since one of us would always need to support the climber when it came to that.

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Before we actually began climbing, I thought that belaying would be the more difficult part. I found it pretty challenging, which probably makes me sound like a total n00b to any actual climbers out there (…which is true, haha). There’s a very specific pattern that you need to follow as you pull the slack of rope, and I kept getting confused. There’s also a whole bunch of jargon that the climber and belayer (is that the right word?) are supposed to exchange, which I kept messing up. “On belay?” “Belay on.” “Climbing!” “Climb on.” And so on, and so forth.

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Of course, once I actually started climbing, my tune changed very quickly. It is HARD! It’s fun — really fun, in fact — but it is definitely challenging. You don’t realize how tightly you’re gripping onto the pegs/rocks/things in the wall until you release. Plus, you are using muscles that you rarely use on an everyday basis. My forearms are still killing me!

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After the intro climb in the upstairs (read: easier) area, we were let loose in the main climbing room, where there were various routes marked on the walls with colored tape. There’s a rating system that marked how difficult the routes were, and even though we tried one of the lower-end levels that was recommended for us (a 5.6, I think), it was still REALLY tough. There is a HUGE difference between just climbing up willy-nilly and having to follow a specific path. All three of us needed the two on the ground to help direct us to the appropriate pegs, especially for our feet. It was difficult to see which ones we were allowed to step on when we were looking down at them. I only made it a little more than halfway up on that one, Jenny made it about 3/4 of the way, but Dan scaled all the way to the top!

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Jenny the Monkey

Generally, we Powells aren’t known for our superhuman upper arm strength, so I knew it would be a challenging go for me. That said, I did a lot better than I thought I would initially! Hoisting myself up wasn’t that difficult, it just became really hard when I didn’t have pegs that were easy to grip onto. Some of them had little divets that you could hook your fingers around, but some of them were just rounded, and my grip wasn’t strong enough to utilize them. Rock climbers must have fingers like BICEPS, I tell ya!

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I think it’s also pretty clear that body mass and the way your weight distributes itself really affects how easy it is to climb. A lot of it is mental and feeling confident in the fact that you are fully supported and you won’t fall even if you miss or slip. And of course, since it’s me, I totally slipped at one point and careened off of the wall. It was actually kind of fun!

At the end of the class, they gave us license to go back and do some bouldering, which is free climbing a shorter wall without need for a harness or ropes. I thought this was really, really fun too. The walls only went up like 12 or 13 feet, and they had big fluffy mats underneath to fall onto. I did a little baby route with ease, though there were tons of routes that went up on slants and eventually had people hanging off the ceiling — crazy! I gave a half-assed attempt at one of those before realizing that I was probably being a little overly ambitious. Still, I can totally see why people get into rock climbing. It was fun, a great workout (you don’t realize how hard you’re working until you come down!), and even now I keep thinking back to that first route I couldn’t complete and wish I could give it another shot. Motivating!

The membership fees at Earth Treks were something like $65 a month, which is really comparable to what I pay for at my regular gym right now. They also have a small gym room with treadmills and weights and whatnot, so I could see this as being a great option to have instead of a normal gym membership. If they had a location closer to me, I would really consider switching over! I’ll have to do some research to see if there are any other climbing gyms close by.

Have you ever been rock climbing? There was a rock wall at UREC, the gym on campus at JMU, that I never took advantage of. I kind of wish I had now! Maybe it would have gotten me into the habit of exercising long ago…

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