Climbing in the mountains
Some stop to smell flowers, I love to touch rock.
Still a complete novice to rock-climbing, it is my favorite moment. It’s when I’m all tied in, asking the person at the other end of the rope if I’m “on belay.” It’s the time I make that first tentative contact with the element that is all I have to hold on to until I reach the top of a climb ” or the point of return.
By the time the belayer has checked his end of the rope and given me the “belay’s on” command, my hand has wandered probingly all over the rock.
Is it smooth and cool? Sandy and sharp? Or completely polished and warmed by the sun already?
Once I’m “on the wall” making my way up with only my hands, toes, mind and the rock to work with, I’ve probably forgotten that first moment, but I savor it after the climb.
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It’s that moment when the route still seems inviting ” at least to my beginner’s eye ” and when the rock lets me believe that defiance of gravity through sheer will and physical power is possible.
It’s a slow and deliberate activity, and much of it is spent contemplating ” your own moves and route, your partner’s choices, as well as the features of your surroundings.
When you’re not climbing but belaying a partner, you’re making sure that a slip or fall won’t end tragically by using your weight to arrest the fall of the other person.
Rock-climbing is dangerous and comes with a complicated set of redundant precautions and gear, which are very confusing to the beginner. Taking an introductory class or hiring a climbing guide is an absolute must.
While gear is expensive, first-timers can rent the basic setup from a climbing outfitter or directly from the local climbing gear stores for less than $40 a day (the guide comes extra).
The Vail Valley offers a multitude of climbing experiences. From basic bouldering to hip sport climbing routes to challenging trad climbing, it’s all here. The best way to find a route that suits you is to trust a guide, follow an experienced climber friend or resort to books and the free advice of climbers often found working in stores that sell climbing gear.
Special Sections Editor Geraldine Haldner has been living in the Vail Valley since 1998. She spends as much time as she can outside of her cubicle running, hiking or rock-climbing.