Taking your favorite activity from indoors to the great outdoors is not always simple. These first experiences are bound to provide a story or two. Below I will share with you guys my first outdoor experience, and the things I may have done differently if I was to do it all over again. In the next post, we will speak more about the things that are good to have on hand to make sure you are prepared for anything you may encounter during your ventures.
The First Time.
My friend Scott and I pulled into the parking area at the edge of the lake. This time we were at Grassi Lakes to join in all the fun the climbers were having. It would not be honest to say Scott was super experienced outdoors, although he is a very talented and skilled climber indoors. Granted, being on a climbing team has given him all the knowledge he would need: lead belaying a climber, catching falls, anchoring, and so on. For me, this made him knowledgeable enough to show me the ropes.(No pun intended)
Shaking at the knees, I started up the wall. There were more hand and foot placements than one person could use in a life time. Still, falling before passing the second piece of protection would mean hitting the deck. I wanted none of that, especially after hearing all the stories about the silly novice climbers that hurt themselves. Nearly every week (if not every day) at this very climbing area there was an incident. Usually due to inexperience, and I would never live it down if I was next.
Thankfully, and with no shortage of Elvis leg and other shakes, I clipped the second draw with a sigh of relief. Getting to the top from there was much easier now that I was safe. The next challenge undoubtedly would be remembering what to do to rappel back to the ground.
The process was slow, seeing as I had never done this before. Although it seemed like a good idea to learn this simple skill outdoors, now that I was up here, my opinion changed drastically.
Safely back on the ground, I was happy, and the adrenaline was pumping. No rocks hit us, which was lucky seeing as Grassi is known for this. Without a helmet this provided a nice element of surprise and fear. Very spicy!
Helmets cost money, and money was tight. This meant climbing without one. Plus cool kids clearly do not wear helmets, until they get hurt of course. The rest of the day went off without a hitch, the fun continued and we both went home happy and healthy.
If I was to do it all again.
- Practice Makes Perfect.
I am going to remain truthful here, mistakes were made. Although, this is not a visible fact from the photos, the fellow above has never lead climbed before. Leading is a method that allows you to climb starting with the rope on the ground and clip into protection as you proceed up. Protection comes in the form of a bolt, drilled or glued into the rock. I knew the dangers associated with making an error, but had no practice in a controlled environment.
If you intend to participate in a very practice-intensive activity like climbing that requires a lot of gear, I would recommend practicing key skills in an indoor environment. This will prevent any silly and costly mistakes.
- DO NOT skip the safety equipment!
Helmets are for everyone, not just losers and we all know ‘cool kids’ are stupid anyways. Make sure when you take your passion outdoors, you do so with all of the recommended safety gear. If you are unsure what gear is the most important, speak to someone that knows what they are doing. Particularly an instructor, as they will be more credible than Bobby at the local gym. Shop around – you can definitely get the basics for a bargain if you look hard enough. Also, be aware which gear is alright to buy used and which you should purchase new. Your local professional has the answer to that question too.
- Go with a Pro.
The first time you take your activity to the great outdoors, it does not hurt to go with a professional. We can’t all afford a guide or a paid instructor, but a friend or acquaintance that knows the ropes very well is a better companion than none. Make sure the person has been outdoors many times, has the gear the needed, and if you are lucky you may save some money by borrowing some of theirs or renting. Lord knows I could not afford all the gear needed for outdoor climbing all at once.
Take your time to prepare and do not rush it. Staying healthy and safe is more important than anything else when pursuing the outdoors. So make sure you know what you are getting into.
Stay safe out there!