I was hoping to meet up with Todd again. I need to thank him for "showing me the ropes" the first day I was there. I saw his co-worker Jean who told me that he was out sick today, so no luck. No problem, there's always somebody to pair off with. Jean first, then a friend of hers named Travis.
Tonight I think I met the Old Man Of The Gym. A guy named Darrell, mid-fifties. I was resting after my first two times up the wall and he introduced himself and asked if I wanted to go again. I said I was still resting but I'd send him up if he wanted. I'd never belayed him before so he picked an easy climb, no doubt to see if I'd drop him. I didn't, but he had some criticism of my style, which I needed to hear. Then I let him put me up a simple route. Just getting up the wall is still kind of panicky for me.
I've been reading rec.climbing, which is of course festooned with all these new terms I don't understand, so I asked Darrell. He knew all of it, of course. Now I know we are "sport climbers" and we are somehow at odds with the "trad climbers." I guess.
Man, that guy is a piece of work. He said he's been climbing for five years and he sticks to the wall like a damn spider. Way better than Todd. It's work for him, he has to grunt his way up the hard routes, but you can't help but admire a guy his age who's better than all the kids. A natural talent.
You know, I didn't get into this for the chyx. Really. But MAN, I'd have to be BLIND not to notice, well, the chyx. I think I may have just lost my preference for girly-girls.
I was watching this little slip of a girl, couldn't have been older than 22 and maybe 95 pounds. She was hanging by her hands from the middle of a bulge in the wall, twenty feet up, trying to find a place to anchor her feet. She'd get a partial grip, start making her way up, lose it, once again dangling her legs. She had no problem at all supporting her entire weight on her arms, she made it look like a resting position. It was the sexiest thing I've ever seen. She had a big band-aid on her shoulder and that made it even better. The only way it could have been cooler would be if she had a big gash somewhere.
Okay, I'm getting into a weird area here. I think I better stop with the chyk stories now.
Jean had brought a friend of hers and it was his second time to the gym also. And he was WAY worse than me HAW HAW HAW NEENER NEENER. I watched him struggle to get up the easiest routes. He gets himself into a fairly tenable position, sees his next move, starts to go for it, and his forearms give out. He doesn't have the strength to support himself with his arms for even a second. We were talking about it after we'd both called it quits for the night. I can feel my forearms getting a lot of heavy use but they've never given out on me. I thought of a possible cause: "How much do you weigh?" "Two-twenty-five," he said. "Well, there you go. I'm only 155." "Aw man," he said. I don't think I'd be quite so nimble if I had to carry an extra 70 pounds up the wall with me.
My very first route on my very first day was a 5.7, I shot right up like it was a ladder. Then a terrifying 5.8 which I got up even faster, cheating only a little bit with holds I wasn't supposed to use. The last one, a 5.9, was harder but not as terrifying because it defeated me and I couldn't make progress. I had no choice but to hang on the wall for awhile and ponder my options. I finally made it up by sheer force of will, swearing like a longshoreman.
Tonight I started on a 5.7 and then did a couple of 5.8s that were not so tough. I'd told myself I wanted to take it easy tonight, no more nightmares. But it wasn't any fun. If you're not going to stretch yourself you might as well go out to your garage and get a ladder and climb up that instead. Yawn.
So I let Darrell pick a hard 5.8 for me, where you have to negotiate around a corner of the wall. I got stuck and fell but I didn't get terribly frustrated. I let myself dangle on the rope for awhile then did a crazy-mad adrenaline rush to the top. Hanging by my hands from the pipe at the top of the that route, I felt better than I have in fifteen years. Oh my god, what an endorphin rush. It felt like I was about to puke up my internal organs. I know, that sounds like a very strange metaphor to use for what's supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but I don't think I can describe it to a civilian. It's a commingling of pleasure and pain and I can't describe it any better than that.
That was about it for me for one night. A couple of times now I've heard I should spider my way horizontally from hold to hold near the ground as an exercise to build up my forearms, so I thought I'd cool down with that. I only made about five moves before I just couldn't take it anymore, my shoulders felt like they were about to wrench out of my body. I am utterly destroyed.
Big surprise, I've got a bunch of new cuts and bruises. I've been climbing in shorts but I don't think that can last, I won't have any skin left on my knees. My fingers are starting to look like sausages. I just ate half of everything in the refrigerator and I still feel like I'm about an inch away from prowling the neighborhood and biting the heads off stray cats.
So, um. Yes. Who the hell IS this guy that I am becoming? I have never seen any indication in my LIFE that something like this would ever happen to me.