My climbing gym has three kinds of walls. There are “climbing walls”, “bouldering walls”, and “traverse walls”.
Entry-level climbing walls are basically just wacky ladders. Sometimes you’ll have to mix it up a little by reaching a little higher here or there or zigging and zagging up the wall a bit, but you’re mostly going to be training your brain how to climb than your body how to do it.
Traverse walls, by comparison, exist to give you an object lesson of some sort. Even the entry-level ones are going to make you do something a little bit wacky that the entry-level climbing wall wouldn’t. Like they’ll put only one toe hold in a particular place and make you practice different ways of switching your feet on a single toehold or make you learn about “barn doors” when you’ve got too much weight above not enough of a base.
The traverse lesson I learned this week involved walking backwards sideways. The holds were all of a type where it was not possible to grab them from the right at all, only barely possible to grab from the front, but grabbing them from the left was easy-peasy. Heck, once you were holding on, you just had to lean against the wall with your left side and slowly walk back up the wall until you got in reach of the goal.
When I first started that one, I was confused because I was attacking it from the front. When my bud looked at what I was doing, he said “no, Jaybird… like this” grabbed the starting holds and immediately swung his hips until he was sideways against the wall and started walking backwards. It took me three or four tries to swing my hips like that but I learned that trying to grip the holds from the front was going to be, effectively, doing a pull-up and gripping the holds from the side was, effectively, just leaning back, it was yet another lesson for me that I needed to climb smarter, not harder.
(As for bouldering walls, they’re like traverse walls but upside down. From what I understand the goal of the entry-level bouldering routes is to get you to just hang from them and dangle and just move one limb at a time while the other three hold you in place. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.)
This weekend will be devoted to feeling like I can do that thing where you take your jacket off and you put your hands behind your back for a second to free up the cuffs of the arms without feeling like I’ve been through a rock tumbler.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)