Sarah LeifeldAP LiteratureCorbett19 April 2012 What if there were a mountain between you and destiny? (Play Video clip)Learning to rock climb for my senior project taught me to conquer mountains, andnot turn the other way. I knew this was going to be a challenge, so I went ahead and got in touch withsomeone with experience. First, I contacted Erin Turner who I have gone to church withfor years. While in college, Erin led rock climbing trips up Mount Yonah for SummerHonors students at North Georgia College and State University. My sister happened to beone of these and she set me up with Erin. From the start Erin was vital to the success ofmy project. I constantly hounded her with a million questions over the course of the year,all of which she answered happily. She brought me out for a trip and taught me how tolead climb. Erin even loaned me all the equipment I brought for my demonstration today.In addition, I located a nearby rock climbing facility, Escalade, and emailed its owner.The owner, Andy, thought it was an awesome idea and agreed to assist me in anyway hecould. Heprovedextremely helpful by designing my workouts and offering the adultbeginners class for free. The instructor of the class, Mike Donisi, worked with me asoften as my project facilitator. Mike is this high-energy guy with an endless knowledgeabout everything rock climbing. Easy to get in touch with and very personable, Mike andI worked well together.
As to have some sort of knowledge of rock climbing before beginning myclasses, I wrote my research paper on the basics. Primarily, I focused on the varioustypes of climbing and their inherent risks.I learned that there are five main types ofrock climbing. Bouldering involves low altitude climbing without any form of belay orharness. Though this method is not practiced at locations where a fall would beparticularly dangerous, climbers place a cushioned bouldering pad beneath the rockformation. Indoor climbing, of which most of my training consisted, uses artificial rockwalls with various designed routes that work to improve skill in a safe environment.Traditional climbing is typically what you see in movies and will normally associate withrock climbing. Two climbers, one a belayer and one ascending the rock face, useharnesses and other specialized equipment to scale the mountain. With traditionalclimbing, climbers can either top rope or lead climb. In top roping, an anchor is place atthe peak and the belayer stands on the ground. With the anchor working as a pulley, thebelayer becomes a counter weight to prevent the climber from falling. In lead climbing,the belayer also stands on ground; however, there is no anchor at the top. The climberuses devices that are made to fit into existing crevices or holes, inserted as he ascends themountain. While this will catch the climber, it comes with greater risk. When I tried thiswith Erin, it was a lot more difficult than I expected. Another form of rock climbing issport climbing. The only real difference between lead climbing and sport climbing is thatin sport climbing there is a designed route. This route comes equipped with various hooksonto which the climber can attach his rope as he scales the mountainside.In free soloclimbingthe climber uses nothing other than himself to achieve his feat. As shown in thefirst clip, no safety precautions are set in place to prevent injury. If the climber falls, he
will die. Because of this it is the most dangerous type of rock climbing and onlyattempted by expert climbers. Despite all my research, nothing could have prepared me for my first class. I hadonly met Mike briefly, and Andy really did not go into detail about what to expect. Iwalk in at eight o’ clock Tuesday night and discover this “beginner”actually classconsisted of five rather experienced guys all in their mid twenties. Already intimidated,the next shock came when Mike had us, for our warm up, complete 20 pushups, 100crunches, and 30 pull-ups. After that we were to campus, then do a bouldering lap.Campusing is a training exercise in which the climber uses only his arms to climb. Thiswas extremely difficult. So difficult, that by my last class I had only managed to campusfive levels. However, I found the bouldering lap to be even worse. For this we climbedour way from one side of the bouldering wall to the other, including the upside downsection. On my first day I had not even made it halfway across when the rest of the classhad finished. After we completed the warm up though, the class transformed. It was themost fun activity I have ever tried. I spent the next hour, as I soon learned the supposedhour long class would actually be closer to two, bouncing off walls with the rest of thegroup. Most of my classes mirrored the first, chiefly focusing on improving skill. Mikealways made time to teach me any background information I did not know, though. Heexplained that the jumbled mess of holds was actually several individual problemslabeled according to each path’s level of difficulty. The ranking system ranges from oneto six with six being the most difficult. He also went over the various types of holds.These are pretty easy to remember, as each resembles its name. We also had days during
which he concentrated on developing a particular skill. Some of these included learningto how to do dynamic moves, inwhich you have to jump in order to reach the next hold,belaying, and rappelling. I lost just a little bit of confidence in Mike the day we learned torappel. He realized, after the first person had gone, that he had handed the spotter thewrong end of the rope. This means that had the person repelling messed up, he wouldhave crashed to the ground. Of course, Mike died laughing as he told us this. Other than that minor lapse in judgment, I only ran into few problems over thecourse of the year. I quickly discovered that the 70-dollar monthly membership fee, inaddition to gas and shoe rental, is hard to fund with an afternoon babysitting job. I alsorealized that, ironically, this babysitting jobtended to interfere with arriving to my class,which was an hour away, on time. Because of this, I limited myself to only two months ofclasses. The greatest barrier I faced, and perhaps the most valuable tool I will take fromthis experience, was learning how to fall. My first real fall I would have rock climbingoccurred at second class during one of the bouldering laps. Once again everyone wasdone, so I was rushing. About 13 ft in the air and trying to maneuver my way into theupside down section of the wall, I slipped. I fell all the way to the ground and somehowmanaged to completely miss the bouldering pad. Luckily, I escaped with nothingseriously injured other than my pride. The guys made sure to comfort me, though, byletting me know someone had broken an ankle the week before in the same manner. Itsurprised me how much falling had scared me. I kept thinking, “what if I had broken anankle, or landed on my back, or worse?” I did not quit though. I made myself stand upand finish the lap. After that, I found with rock climbing you tend to do more
fallingthanactuallyclimbing, or at least I did. But it made my successes feel even better.When I face struggles, next year and for the rest of my life, I know my mind will recallmy rock climbing experience. I will remember that it is ok to fall as many times as ittakes to succeed, and that the falling by no means diminishes your feat. I chose this project because I wanted to stretch myself. I wanted to see if I coulddo something that I never really believed I was brave enough to try. I did more than that,though. I found a passion where I did not expect one. I gained perseverance anddetermination, skills that will help me, not only through college, but in any career Ichoose.So what if there is a mountain between me and destiny? I will climb. I challengeyou to do the same. I am so grateful for this assignment, and grateful for having thisopportunity to share it with you. Thank you for your time today.