Monday, May 01, 2006

May 2006 Activity -- Rock Wall Climbing

We showed up at the Sportrock facility (housed in an industrial park) and checked in. You have to sign a detailed waiver saying that when the equipment fails and you plummet to your death, it is not their fault. You also have to sign something saying that you have forfeited the right to a helmet. None of us signed this, and were then given some kind of weird explanation about how we needed to sign it -- so we did, and also got helmets. (huh?)
Our instructor (self-nicknamed G.I. Joe according to him nametag), (nicknamed Captain Sideburns by us), got us our shoes and helmets and directed us to a lounge to wait for class to begin.
Our group decided to pick some fun nicknames for ourselves -- Nicole was "Lara Croft", Amanda was "Billy" (as in billy goat) and Amy went with "Spiderwoman." Being the creative marketing type, I went with "Kathleen" (as in "Kathleen").
We quickly discovered that you apparently cannot just go to class and learn how to climb a wall. You have to go through a 2-hour session on "belaying" -- which is essentially learning how to tie knots and be the anchor person for the person who is climbing the wall. Ironically, after 2-hours of learning to tie knots and not doing anything active...we ALL were climbing the wall. (Jokes about "being at the end of our ropes" also fit in nicely here.)
Captain Sideburns claimed up front that he was "sarcastic." This should always serve as a warning. Anyone who describes themselves as anything is generally the polar opposite of what they claim to be. (Especially those who describe themselves as "classy" or "zany" or "not currently in the midst of a herpes flare-up.") Turns out C.S. was actually an instructor who talked quickly, had little patience, was very intense and used a method of negative reinforcement coaching.
Anyway, we went through the Figure 8 knot, the backup overhand knot and all of the safety checks about a trillion times. C.S. kept stressing, "Safety, safety, safety", yet, curiously, when it was Amanda's turn to climb and she asked for chalk because her hands were slipping, he told her that "climbers usually have chalk on their hands, but you guys don't need to use it". (again, huh?)
I think it was at this point that I asked if we could take pictures. When he said, "yes", I said, "I'm glad...I was a little worried that you'd say no and you kinda scare me because you're a little intense.". Well, he was apparently also a little sensitive, as he must have repeated that I thought he was "intense" many, many times thereafter.
Anyway, when we finally did get to the climbing portion of this activity, I think we all felt that there had been significant instruction in belaying, and very limited instruction in the actual climbing. That, coupled with the fact that other amateurs were the belayers, did not instill us with a great sense of confidence while scaling a huge wall. We all pretty much went up about 7 or 8 feet -- although Nicole kicked ass and went up more than 10 (and was only stopped by not being able to find another grip once she got up there -- she was not scared at all!)
The activity ended, as they all do, with some drinking. This time at the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington. As it turns out, drinking is the only activity that we've maintained a consistent level of interest and skill in throughout this process.

Activity: Rock Wall Climbing
Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, May 3rd, 7:00-9:00pm, SportRock, Alexandria VA