Story By Anna
Like many 22 year olds, I elected to spend my 22nd birthday at the bars. As I left for the night, my roommate cheerfully reminded me "Don't forget we have birthday plans at noon tomorrow!"
I does not take a stretch of the imagination to asses how I felt come 11:30 am the next morning. My roommate enthusiastically greeted me in the morning. Turns out she thought I would enjoy rock climbing and we were going to a belay class at the local gym. Great, class, not exactly what I had in mind. Bed sounded better. Regardless, not wanting to let her or myself down by bailing on plans, I went.
I walked into the (original) Alaska Rock Gym for the first time. It smelled kind of sweaty. It was busy. People were climbing all over. In my hungover state, I was unimpressed. I remembered seeing a Citi credit card commercial years ago with a rock climbing theme and wondering why the hell anyone would ever climb rocks. I still did not see why people would climb rocks like that. But I guess I was about to try it.
A short time later, I was in class. We started with the basics: a brief introduction to the different kinds of climbing. Something about top rope and sport and some other name I wasn't about to remember. The top rope was pretty self explanatory, especially since there were examples all around me. The other kinds were really confusing. You climb but nothing holds you up from the top if you fall...? How does that work? We moved on to knots. Something about playing a violin and then making a figure 8. Finally, we covered belay devices. Friction and physics, ok, got it.
After the demos, it was time to do it for real. I tied in and climbed up about 10 feet. I was already kind of tired. Climbing is hard. Then the instructor told me to fall. Uh, ok. I fell. I didn't hit the ground. That was good. I was still unimpressed. We switched. My partner fell. He didn't hit the ground either but I flew up in the air and swung towards the wall. The instructor complimented me for not dropping him and for catching myself and not slamming into the wall. My head still didn't feel so great. We did a few more cycles to prove that it wasn't a fluke that I caught him the first time. After almost 2 hours of learning the history of rock climbing and how to belay, I passed and was set free to belay unsupervised.
My roommate was elated to start climbing. I was already tired. My forearms were burning. But we climbed a few routes. I ran into a few buddies from college. Turns out they had recently decided to start climbing. They said they went every week and invited me. Nope, thank you for the invite but I think I am good. I think this will be my first and last day of climbing. We finished climbing for the day and I went home and took a nap.
I recall from that day that my roommate had a very high level of enthusiasm for the outing in general and that I had a general lack of desire to ever climb again. However, the next week, my buddy from college invited me to climb with the group. I couldn't come up with an excuse not to, so I went. And I went back the next week, and the week after that. I was terrible. 5.8s was about all I could do. A 5.9 was really hard. It recall one 5.9 route that took me 40 minutes to complete with a ton of falling. For some reason I kept coming back. Maybe it was the challenge.
Then, the summer came. I was still climbing once a week. My group decided to climb outside. I was actually excited by this prospect. I was so stoked from our first real outdoor rock climbing trip that I got stoked on climbing in general. I saw the gym as a way to further my skills and enhance my outdoor climbing possibilities. I started going more. I still picked things up slowly, but now I loved the challenge and the sport.