Sunday, September 27, 2009


And so it begins.

This weekend, I met my climbing partner, Ryann, and her boyfriend I've named "Schnookums." Brian (his real name) decided he preferred a monosyllabic representation of Self. So now, forevermore, he shall be referred to as "Schnook."

We spent a good two hours at the wall today. Though it's true I only once attempted to master the 5.6 route on the north wall, a.k.a. "The Dolly Parton Project," so named for it's "big jugs," I spent the rest of the time bouldering (or rather, trying to boulder).


Well, the same skills you use without a rope, traversing, footwork, holds, and assessing your route, all apply. I've found that as a new climber, I haven't learned to trust my hands or my feet. Somehow the freedom of bouldering, mucking around on the wall without a harness and below the bouldering line, allows me to experiment without feeling as though I'm wasting my belay's time or holding up others waiting to climb.

It's that latter part that's a big deal. Not yet having the confidence, and still negotiating my sense of self-perception, I feel embarrassed at the wall. This is particularly true when there's a group waiting on the bench for their chance at a route. I'm very conscious of wall decorum, and the spirit of sharing and community at our wall. So while I want to learn, I don't want to learn at others' expense.

Schnook offered a lot of advice today, and he noticed that I had improved since his last visit to Lincoln. My climbing partner, Ryann, also noticed improvements from that first day we tried this inquiry. That's the day I got hooked, by the way.

But today's work was different. For one, I brought my camera (you can see the photos. For another, I explained to everyone there the project and my goals. Many agreed with my assessment, that when looking into climbing the only examples you can find are from those who are already in great shape. Many also noted that it didn't matter where one began, so long as one did indeed begin.

I've created P'UP t-shirts. Until I've mastered a route, I'll be wearing the "Rookies Climb Rainbows" t-shirt, a popular one at the wall. I've gotten three orders, by the way, and that seemed like something fun in itself.

How did climbing go today?

Well, I made it past the crag swiftly with little difficulty, and that seemed like something to celebrate. I also learned that sometimes, one has to swing, to allow momentum to give that extra inch or so needed to reach a hold. This is largely a matter of physics, and if you're climbing with your skeleton, keeping your arms straight and your weight on your feet where it belongs, it's a lot more fun.

I also learned that I have yet to master my fear of heights. Climbing is far more cerebral than most people think it is, and once I proved to myself that I was indeed climbing, and once I had swung to meet that elusive hold from last week, the fear set in. My monkey mind, what Buddhist tradition calls a mind that won't focus, got the best of me. I tried a meditative technique Thich Nhat Hanh describes in his book, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart (2006).

Once one recognizes fear, Hanh advises, one can then imagine holding that fear like a child. Soothing it, holding it close, then making sure the child fear knows that though you honor its presence, you tell that fear you're still going to do what you need to do.

Sounds hokey, but you know, it worked. I did get a full two moves above that fear moment before letting my weight go to just one side and swinging open like a damn barn door. That's when physics made me it's downcast minion. That's when I came down and realized I had let my monkey mind get a little too far ahead of myself.

After that, as I said, I worked on traversing across the wall. I worked on that until I couldn't feel my middle fingers anymore. Sweaty, spent, but grinning like a dork, I packed it in. Overall, it was a good day. I didn't get hurt. I laughed with good people. I made it past a part in a route that gave me trouble last week.

Other noteworthy discoveries: My La Sportiva Nago shoes are perfectly broken in now, rubbing only slightly at my heel. I no longer wear the duct tape on my achilles tendons to protect them from blistering - a trick I learned from my daughter. Also, I've finally worn in the new chalk ball (our wall doesn't allow loose chalk) so it has just enough give in it.

Nutritional news: Instead of bowing down to the diet industry yet again, I've been working on just two aspects of my nutritional habits. After looking at protein options, I've created a balance of vegetarian and poultry sources. The benefit of vegetarian proteins, particularly beans and legumes, is that you get the added benefit of fiber. The benefit of poultry is that it's a complex protein with essential acids a body needs. I'll explore fish and lean meat later in the month. The other area of focus is fiber. High fiber foods stay with a body longer, and when it comes to energy, that's important. Fiber also keeps your hunger in check, which is important when you're trying to learn to fuel your body in healthier ways.

I'll be working on a caloric intake model particular to my height and weight next week. The overall goal right now is to reduce my BMI, and thanks to my Wii, I can get a weekly assessment on that. Okay, so it's not the best assessment, but it's the most fun. And P'UP is all about fun.

Ryann and I will climb again sometime this week, but I think I'll head to the wall on Tuesday to work on bouldering some more. I've learned that if I get there right when the wall opens, I can have a half hour of full use of the wall on my own. For now, the climbing schedule is no more than three times a week, but that's simply because I don't want to overdo it or hurt myself. In between these days, I have other activities to do that will build strength and endurance. I'll be posting more about that another day.

For now, as the cold air wafts through my window and I feel the chilled fingers of fall pulling summer away, I'm smugly satisfied with myself. Not only did I have a good day of climbing, I didn't wince at my photos or subject my physical self to a bucketload of self-incrimination and negativity. I'm hoping that as I grow as a climber, as I assert my self-love and dedication to something besides my mind, my photos will eventually reveal changes I can see.

I just wish my hands didn't hurt ... someone told me today that if they didn't feel dead, you weren't really climbing. So I guess I really climbed today.


  1. Great entry, Erica. I'll be tuned in to Project Up and anxiously awaiting the call informing me that a primed shot of whiskey is about to be consumed. Most people, me included, get some elbow pain a few months into climbing. If that happens, just take it easy. Muscles can develop faster than tendons.

  2. Thanks for the advice. On today's workout schedule: Wii boxing. What does it do for climbers? Not much, but it makes me feel better about being cooped up in a theory class for three hours today. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for talking about dealing with fear. I will try this technique as I am still working on overcoming my fear of falling on lead climbing.

  4. Let me know if the meditative technique helps ... I can post a full excerpt of that book section if you'd like to know more.


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