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Realize your Route

Submitted by admin on 2002-03-06

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It's dumbed down for my english teacher, but I did get an A so I thought I's share.

Andy Tembrock
February 28, 2002
Realize your Route

For those of you who have ever tried the sport of rock climbing, I am sure that you found it to be a most humbling experience, which requires not only skill and strength but mental resolve as well. I end up spending a good chunk of summer and all of fall doing just that, climbing rocks. I travel all over Minnesota, climbing indoors and out, and by the end of each day I realize how much I love the danger and mental strength involved in climbing.

But as the days go on, I want to keep testing and pushing my skills as a climber. This is how I discover the St. Johns Climbing Wall. By this time I will top rope anything, this is when climbers are attached to a rope hanging from the top of a wall, not caring about the consequences of falling because you can only fall a foot or two any way. I also began bouldering, climbing without ropes. There can be a lot of adrenaline pumping moments when you boulder but I want to be able to climb high. Since there are no ropes in bouldering, climbing high is not an option and when you top rope there is always something there to help pull you up. I want the ascent to be all me. There at the St. Johns Climbing Wall, I discover sport climbing.

Sport climbing is when a climber carries the rope up with him, clipping into a quickdraw, an anchor on the wall, every five feet or so. This type of climbing will always fascinate me. More mental resolve and commitment go into each move because when you fall, you fall hard. A sport climber will keep falling until he is past the last quickdraw he's clipped into and all the slack in the rope is taught. These falls usually average around 5-6 feet of free fall. So I start to climb on the set sport routes at St. Johns. I start easy on a nice climb with plenty of holds and a great crack in the wall to climb on. I move up quickly, reaching for each hold and clipping into the quickdraws on my way up. I make it easily. Now it's time to try another route. Aside from one small fall, I complete this as well. I'm starting to feel pretty good about my sport climbing abilities, maybe a little to good.

The next time I am out climbing at St. Johns, I decide on trying the same sport route which I climbed my first time. Except this time I will make it harder for myself and use as little handholds as possible. After a few warm-up climbs on the top ropes, I set out on my mission. I know the route, I know where to clip in, and I'm pumped and ready to ascend. The climb starts out great. I make it halfway through with no problems, except some fatigue from all the force on my arms. Got to keep moving. Most of the time the only way I'm attached to the wall is by my hands jammed into the crack, my feet are only smearing the rubber textured wall. I'm three fourths the way up, I can see my goal, see where this climb will turn into an accomplishment. One hand is jammed in the crack the other trying to clip my rope to a quickdraw: "Slack," I yell, "I need more slack." The belayer gives me the slack I need to clip in. Suddenly my feet slip, my hands let go. I'm free falling. I fall past my last quickdraw, hoping for the rope to catch. It does not. Still I fall. Twenty feet latter, I'm hanging at the end of my rope, shaking.

That is the biggest fall of my life, twenty feet of free fall. My mind is numb, my arms, legs, and body shaking. The belayer calls out: "Do you want to come down?" "No, I'll finish my climb," I answer back. I'm still shaking, but I must finish. The rest of my climb is agonizing. With each move I risk another fall, but I still must finish. I slowly make my way back up the wall again, reaching the point where I fell. This time I get my rope clipped in and move on, slowly. Finally I reach the top. I clip into the lowering bolt and sit back. I had done it. I finished the hardest sport climb with the longest fall of my climbing career. Thanks to my mental resolve to finish the climb, I did not have to retreat and sit there wondering if I actually could have made it. I realize my route and relax.


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