“Jaybird, we’re going to get you up to the top of the wall”, my co-worker told me.
I’d been struggling, you see. I could get halfway up the wall but then the people who set the routes would usually say something to the effect of “Hey, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to mix it up a little bit! You know, give the climbers a new hold to have to think about” and I would say “and this is as high up the wall as I’m getting today” and then belay back on down after a moment of panic.
“We’ve been thinking about it and he’s going to give you a belay”, he pointed to one of my climbing buddies, “and I’m going to climb right next to you on the route about 6 feet to your left and I’m going to give you encouragement from a mere couple of feet away rather than yelling it from the ground.”
And so that’s what we did. We got on the wall and just started climbing. I got up halfway without a problem and then, slowly, I got to watch my brain change.
I went from “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” to “it’s raisins… that make… Post Raisin Bran so wonderful” to “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” over the course of 40 feet or so.
When we got to the first “let’s throw these climbers for a loop”, he pointed out that I was halfway there and I should keep going and it wasn’t a big deal and since he was about six feet away, he was saying it rather than shouting it and it helped. So I climbed up a little bit more and then got to the part where my brain stopped being able to sing jingles and started only being able to do vowels. At this point, my buddy started explaining “hey, left foot up… there’s a hold by your right hand… stretch just a little bit more… now extend your leg… just six more moves… just five more moves… right foot…” and, next thing you know, my left hand was on the top hold. “Now all you have to do is touch that hold with your right hand too!”
This, of course, involved climbing juuuust a little bit more. But I touched the top hold with both hands.
After that, I had a downright interminable belay all the way down from the top to the bottom of the wall (and, seriously, my feet feel like they’re making fists in my slippers just remembering it).
But I got to the top. Then I got to the bottom.
Afterwards, my forearms felt like water balloons that were overfilled. Apparently, there’s a sheath over the muscles in the calf and in the forearm that aren’t over the other muscle groups in the body. I asked the guy behind the counter if there was a term that they used to describe this and he tilted his head to the side and thought about it and then said “Pumped? I guess?” and he asked a couple of the guys hanging around and they all said “Yeah, pumped? I guess?”
Apparently, it’s not really something that afflicts the seasoned climbers quite so much. “You don’t have to hold the hold in a death grip”, the guy behind the counter helpfully told me. “I’m afraid that I do”, I responded.
But all that to say: I made it to the top of the wall. (With the help of my friends, of course.)
And, two days later, pretty much every single muscle group of my body wanted to up and leave. But who cares? I made it to the top.
Now I just have to get good at climbing walls that aren’t the kiddie ones.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)