As it turns out, the Waterville Valley Rec Center plans activities throughout the days of school vacation. One evening last week they held ‘Rock Climbing.’ I took Sam and his friend Connor over. We signed up.
There were three stations at the wall: Easy – Medium – Difficult. Standing there looking up they all look like they should be pretty easy. Attached to the ceiling are the automatic belayers. The human beings working there just clip your harness into the carabiner – the clasp that holds you to the line- and off you go.
I cannot adequately describe the primal fear stored in an area 12” square between the top of my windpipe and the bottom of my sternum. Apparently it is not activated indiscriminately. But rock climbing seems to be a trigger.
I’ve climbed the Bee Hive at Acadia National Park, among others, with little marked apprehension – but for some reason climbing the Rec Center wall – hooked into an automatic belaying system – activated this primal response. As I neared the top of both ascents I am sure the high altitude kicked in – because the air grew MUCH thinner and I felt the clutch in my windpipe and pressure against my sternum!
Being stubborn helps here. Breathe. With dedication, deliberateness and desire this determined fifty-seven year old could muster I completed the Easy and Medium levels – ringing the bell at the top of the ascent. Next time I plan to ‘Dare the Difficult’.
I smile when I think of those my age who rock climb on the real stuff – on a regular basis – ‘off (and on) belay.’
There ‘Dare the Difficult’ enters a whole new realm!