Rock Climbing

Rock climbing, Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs, another adventure.

My partner in crime, my cousin Sara and I met our guide Issac, from Front Range Climbing Co and headed to the large red rock formations rising from the ground.

Issac was a good teacher, patient and kind, willing to let you test your abilities before coming to your aid.

Double 8 Knot


We learned how to tie double figure 8 knots to secure our lines, how to belay the line for our fellow climber, how to secure our harness, and how to repel down the rock once we made it to the top. All good lessons in and of themselves, but the real lesson of the day occurred when I was halfway up my second climb.

Sara was belaying me, meaning she was on the ground serving as my anchor in case I fell. She intently watched me as I slowly made my way up the rock, taking in the slack so that if I did fall I would be caught by the brake line. I was starting up the almost vertical wall of red sandstone, trying to find secure footing and hand grabs when I realized I had nothing to hold onto.

Nothing to push off of


I must mention that I have never, in my entire life, ever done anything like this, in fact, I have not even ever climbed an indoor climbing wall!  I am just your average 46-year-old, suburban stay-at-home mom. When I started this adventure I naively thought you would be harnessed to the ropes and then you would climb from one crevice to another, grabbing the rough rock with your hands and pulling yourself up. This was not how it worked in reality.

The rock actually had very few crevices and even less rough edges to grab. I learned climbing was about problem solving and it was all about taking very small steps in the right direction.

The rock had more dips than ledges and I had to push my toes into the rock and squeeze them to try to grip the wall. Often I would find myself with no real place to push-off and therefore be stuck. The only way to deal with this was to survey the rock and try a new strategy, sometimes shifting right or left a few steps or even having to really stretch out my legs to reach a small indentation in the rock.

At one point, I felt completely stuck with nowhere to push-off so I could climb higher. When I asked Issac what to do he calmly said “Try to find something to push on, even if it is only 5 inches up it will open up new possibilities.”

I trusted in Issac, looked around and found a tiny indentation to my left just a couple of inches away from where my foot currently gripped the wall.  I carefully shifted my foot and pushed with my toes in this new position.  Amazingly, as I looked to my right I did see a new option.  It hit me then, the only option I did not have was to do nothing.  If I didn’t move I would definitely stay stuck.  Instead, I moved my foot to the right and was able to progress up the rock several more feet before my next challenge.
(click on the links Rock Climbing and Rock Climbing Problem Solving to see the video)
Rock Climbing
Rock Climbing Problem Solving

As I learned to trust in my instincts and let go of my fear, options did open up for me.

My first instinct was to look for the obvious and well placed foot holds, expecting almost a ladder like series of steps leading me to the top of the rock.  Reality did not match up to this ideal.  Sometimes my progress up was smooth and quick, but usually it was the opposite.  Slow, careful, inching up kind of progress.  Sometimes I would move almost laterally but then something new would be before me.

Sara getting ready to repel down


I realized that this adventure was a good lesson for me.  Too often I want to do something, but if the logical and obvious step is not in front of me I don’t know what to do, sometimes choosing to do nothing.  Rock climbing taught me to not be afraid to take tiny steps forward because sometimes you just have to “do something” and when you do, even the tiniest step can lead to the next and the next and the next.

The second lesson of the day came when I least expected it.  After carefully picking my way up the looming rock I celebrated when I reached the top!  What a view!

Looking down at Sara I was very pleased when I could see the magnitude of the climb I had just completed.  “Wow! This was cool!  I did it!” I yelled down to my cheering fans below.  Now Issac announced the next step. “Ok, now turn around so your back is to us and then lean way back.  You want to lean as far back into your harness as you can because you need to be parallel to the wall.  You are going to walk down the wall now.”  he explained.

My first thought was ok, I can do this.  I turned around so I was facing away from Sara and Issac.  I tried to lean back, but suddenly my fear got the best of me.  It was a very uncomfortable feeling to be on the top of a rock and then have to lean way back as if you were going to throw yourself off the rock.  I stopped and turned back around so I could face Issac.  “what do you want me to do?”  I yelled, asking for confirmation and hoping for a new set of directions.  He repeated his directions again.

Next, he admitted it was really scary the first time, but that I had to have faith in my equipment and my partner.  My partner would slowly and carefully let the rope out as I slowly descended the rock keeping my brake line tight, this would prevent me from falling.

I took a deep breath and tried again.  Facing away from my partner, I felt the smugness of the harness and the taunt rope.  I leaned as far back as I could and took one tentative step off the rock.  “have faith in your partner” I whispered to myself.  In reality it took more faith in  myself than it did in my partner, but as soon as I stepped off the rock top I could see what Issac was talking about.  It was like being Spiderman walking down a tall building.  One step at a time Sara released a little rope  and I walked down the rock face.   Actually, once I got going it was fun.

One the ground again I grinned at Issac.  “That was cool!”  I said!

Have faith, trust in your partner.  I thought about that  and realized that was good advice.  In my marriage, I had to have faith, I had to trust in my husband, my partner, to go through life’s ups and downs.  In life I had to have faith, I had to trust in God, my partner, to help me make sense of the “why” of life.  On the rock, I had to have faith, I had to trust in my partner to keep me safe while I scaled a tall unforgiving rock wall.

I learned I could solve a problem even when there was no obvious solution. I also learned why faith and trust were the foundation to being able to “do something” when I didn’t know what to do in life.  I think I will go rock climbing again soon and I will take my daughter with me.  This was a good lesson.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

The author, the guide and the authors cousin

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