Learning How To Climb the Walls


—Andy Hunt

03/15/2005
Published in Andy's Blog

For some odd reason I found myself climbing the walls last night. Actually, it was a 3-story, half-vertical, half-negative-incline climbing wall.

The 8 or so of us taking the class were all beginners, and most of us hadn’t done anything more athletic than walking to the mailbox in recent years.

The instructor did a very wise thing: he got everyone suited up in climbing harnesses, briefly showed us the ropes (literally and figuratively), and we went at it. The climb was interesting enough, but then repelling down the wall, suspended only by a rope, really got one’s attention.

We did about 4 or 5 climbs like this before the instructor actually bothered to give us any instruction. Which, as it turns out, was a very smart move on his part. Had he started the evening with a hour-long lecture of where to put your feet, how to shift your balance, reach and so on, we wouldn’t have had any idea what he was talking about.

But after having stumbled though a few climbs first, we now had a much better appreciation for what was required and where the difficulties lay. After even a little experience on our own, we were ready to listen and apply some instruction. We had real context in which to place it.

That’s why it’s usually better to try something first, then read the manual. Now you know what to look for, at least to a better degree than you would have initially.

And as we soon discovered, climbing wasn’t quite as easy as it looked - a couple of folks in the gym were clearly genetically related to Spiderman, as they clung with great ease to the underside of artificial caves and inclines, scampering along with blissful disregard for gravity. We did alright, but one girl tumbled unexpectedly off the bouldering wall onto her rear end and exclaimed in a startled voice, “I though I had another foot!”

I wish!

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