Climbing skillz

Chris and I have gone climbing at Vertical World the past two Tuesdays. The new “Vertical World 4.0” opened just blocks from their prior location right before Christmas and it’s amazing. More space and higher (55′) ropes than before. Here’s a picture — cool, no?

Chris has been climbing longer than I have and it’s obvious that he’s worked at it. I’m doing harder climbs (I did two 5.10a’s last night and was thwarted by a 5.10b) but he has much better form and climbing skills. He’s by far the better climber.

After thinking about it this morning at the gym1 I believe I know why the 5.10b was so difficult and a previous 5.9 I completed seemed harder than a subsequent 5.10a: I’m manhandling the routes, not finessing them. I have enough upper body strength in relation to my weight that as long as I have one good grip, I can hover to swap feet or stretch to another hand-hold without good footing. The 5.9 and 5.10b didn’t have great grips, forcing me to do better footwork and planning – something I need to work on if the 5.10b is any indication.

Beyond me needing to practice my footwork, the other lesson learned is that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I tend to equate ability with skill when they are related but distinct. [Makes me reconsider how much skill vs ability I have in things like throwing pottery, writing, and programming.]

After Chris finished one climb last night I was giving him a hard time about him being slower than I was on the same route. He replied that he was focusing on accuracy and precision. In jest I replied something along the lines of “I’m here to have fun, not to be precise and accurate — I do that all day at the office”. While that was off-the-cuff I think it really is true: I enjoy climbing and while I know I can improve my skills I’ll do so to the extent that I’m enjoying it. My objective in climbing is to have fun, not to necessarily become a great climber.

1 Notice a trend? I tend to think a lot at the gym. I’m not entirely certain it’s a good thing.

Climbing class

Last night Kevin and I took the Climbing 101 class at Stone Gardens, an indoor climbing gym. The principle objective of the class is to get you familiar with belaying, both the equipment and the process. The class was small — there were only 4 of us total. Over the half of the 2.5 hour-long class was instruction on the harness, rope tying, and belay equipment with the last bit on a climbing wall itself with pairs alternating between belay and climber (with the instructor acting as backup belay). As you can imagine, the primary emphasis throughout the entire class was safety: checking and rechecking the equipment as well as belay technique.

I had an absolute blast. I appear to have some innate climbing aptitude which shouldn’t be a surprise given how much I loved to climb trees growing up. I was able to do a 5.8 without too much difficulty, which I thought was pretty decent for one of my first 4 climbs ever.

Kevin and I are aiming to climb together once a week. That’s probably about all I can handle at this point. I wasn’t sore this morning anywhere except my forearms although I have no grip to speak of. Going to have to work on that without aggravating my carpel tunnel.