Sunday, May 26, 2013

Girls Day Out: Rock Climbing!

A few months ago, Stephanie messages me in excitement over a Groupon for outdoor rock climbing and rappelling.  Its been at least 2 years since we've climbed together.  Its been at least (if not more) 4 years since I've climbed outdoors.  It seemed a bit pricey, but we rarely get together anymore due to conflicting work schedules.  It seemed worthwhile.

And of course, we wait until the beginning of summer to schedule our outing.  Because why climb when its in the 70's or 80's when you can climb in the baking Arizona summer sun.

So it was scheduled.  In the early morning hours, we drove to Scottsdale, past insanely beautiful and expensive houses, down wide and quiet street, to McDowell Mountain.  Our host for today was from the Arizona Climbing and Adventure School. He was mellow, yet experienced.  He led the four of us (a couple sprung for the course as their "adventurous" anniversary trip from  Missouri), down the Tom Thumb trail.  We passed many a morning hiker who were excited to know that we were going climbing.

After a brief uphill hike to our destination, we sat under a small holly tree while our guide began his instruction.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting much.  I thought he would toss us a rope and tell us to climb.  I was thoroughly impressed when he began explaining...everything.  He went into the chemistry behind the ropes, the physics of climbing, weight ratio, etc.  He not only taught us the appropriate knots but told us why they were so vital.  He explained the harnesses, and other various tools.  It was pretty awesome.

He was happy to know that Steph and I had prior experience.  I belayed him as he set up the top rope system for us.  I happily went first.  I learned a new technique today - using your palms for support.  There were few finger holds in the beginning of this climb. 

Climbing outdoors is a completely different experience than a climbing gym.  In the gym, you have predetermined routes, clearly marked, fairly significant holds, air conditioning, no bugs and a soft mat to land on.  Outdoors you rely solely on yourself and whomever is belaying you.  Your foot and hand holds are found on the fly and they hardly seem significant.  I was unaware of the screaming hot sun or bothersome flies.  It was exhilarting. 

Steph went next, then the Missouri couple. 

Everyone had a different skill and comfort level.  I have no fear of heights, or really falling.  My personal insecurities about my physical ability was the only thing I needed to get over today.  Regardless of fears, everyone rocked!

I took a second go at it from a different approach.  It was much easier the second time around.  I also hung around up top to enjoy the view.

Exhausted, we took to the shade for a light snack/lunch. 

After a refuel, we moseyed further up the trail to rappel.  It was a short rappel, only 70ft or so.  I was slightly nervous about this.  But again, the guide put us at ease, explained everything from anchor points to knots, the third hand, and approach.  I volunteered to go first.  I surprised myself by not feeling remotely afraid to start my descent. 

(photo courtesy of Stephanie)

We each rapelled twice.  Once with the guide, and once with our partner.

Worn out, sweaty and dirty, we reclaimed our gear and hiked back to the parking lot, in the now desolate park.  Afternoon came swift, eight hours passed and the temperature spiked up to 97 degrees. 

It was an exhilarating day.  Exhausting in the best way possible.  I missed climbing.  Terribly.


  1. Aw yay I miss outdoor climbing. I miss climbing at all but my first experiences climbing were outdoors on rocks and cliffs and I definitely think it is the best way to do it. The feeling of your hands searching the face desperately for somewhere to hold is just a really weird and cool feeling. And when you get to the top you are rewarded with more than just "made it to the top". At one point I wanted to be certified in setting up climbs so I could go out with friends and not just at camp. (I went rock climbing at summer camp every summer once I was old enough ... the best! Hiking, then camping for 3 days and climbing all day!)

    1. This was my third or fourth outdoor climb. And I agree, it's more rewarding than indoor climbing. The joy of reaching the top based on your own route and skills is amazing.