Last night I met my cousin's spouse Kevin at the climbing gym at 6:15PM. The place has changed radically since I was last there. It's under new management, for one thing. It sounds like a bunch of regulars pooled their money and bought the place. It used to be called "Classic Rock Gym," now it is "Climb Nashville." In keeping with the old name, they used to play boring soulless top 40 from the seventies that would put me in a bad mood. The new owners apparently have better taste. While waiting for Kevin to show up I heard the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and Dinosaur Jr. d000000000000d. Actually I'd prefer silence, but at least it's quiet enough so you can only hear it near the front desk.
One thing that's kinda bad: absolutely everybody who used to work there is gone, so far as I can tell. The new woman at the front desk insists that nobody was forced out with the regime change, they all just wandered off to different jobs or back to college or whatever. It's been a few months since I've been there, so I am in no position to know. I'll really miss the tall guy who gave me my first belaying lesson.
In the course of the evening I learned that Kevin has been climbing for about four years. Then he and Cathy had their second kid, sucking up a lot more of his time, and all his partners moved away, so he's been completely out of it for two years. So now we both have an excuse to get back into it.
I decided to start with a totally lame 5.6 route, just to see how Kevin and I were going to work together, and to make sure I can still get up the wall. I was nearly as terrified as I was on my very first climb last year, with the same result: I sped up the route as fast as possible to get it the hell over with. Kevin had no trouble with it either, despite not having climbed in years. Next we tried a 5.8, and I went right up it, and my fear was gone. Then Kevin picked a pretty hard 5.10 with a very ugly overhang you have to find your way around. He spent a couple of minutes trying to find a way around it, then had to bail. I should in theory have had a slightly better time of it, since I am five or six inches taller than him, but I couldn't do that route either. Our first failures of the night. I intentionally fell off that one, just to see how Kevin was going to catch me.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Kevin is clearly the better climber, of the two of us. I'm kind of happy for that, actually. There were a couple of times I found myself being too cautious here and there, and I think it was an echo of the habits I'd formed when climbing with my cousin. She wasn't nearly serious enough and would never listen to my suggestions on how she might improve. There were a couple of times when I'd finished a route and she scared me by dropping me too fast or before I'd indicated I was ready for her to. I knew I'd never go out on actual rock with her until she improved a lot. Now it's a moot point. Kevin knows what he's doing, a lot more than I do. I am happy to be relegated to the role of the student.
Before the night was over, Kevin managed to make it up a slightly easier 5.10 route than the first one we'd tried. I almost made it, but my forearms were pretty tired by that point. I could see myself getting that good before too long, though.
You're supposed to climb such that you're doing almost all the work with your legs. You've got big strong muscles there that are designed to hold all your weight for indefinite periods of time. But the harder a route is for me, the more work I will do with my arms, because it's always a lot easier that way. I can drag my entire weight with one arm for short periods if I have to, but I'm always sorry, because that arm is going to be useless afterwards. Climbing really kills you in your forearms.
Kevin's theory is that women are inherently better at climbing, at least in the early stages of learning, because they don't have as much upper body strength as men, and have naturally learned to compensate. I'll go along with that.
So now I've got another regular Thursday partner, which was the same night I was going before. We are already talking about the inevitable day when we go out on actual rock. Kevin started out that way. Back when he got into it, Nashville did not yet have a climbing gym.
If I keep this up then I'll have the perfect excuse to eat like a pig, at least on Thursday nights.