Climbing and Patience

Shawn Soper writes about taking his girlfriend rock-climbing outside for the first time and her initial trepidation, but how the experience brought them closer.    

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It was supposed to be a very nice day. My phone told me it might reach 70 degrees and be sunny most of the day. But on our way up to Ferguson Canyon my girlfriend Gen didn’t feel so confident.

“Do you see all those clouds?” she said, eyebrow raised. “ I am not sure your phone is right this time.”

Ignoring this, I continued my way up the road. Even if it did not end up being so sunny, it was supposed to be around 70  degrees — plenty warm for rock climbing sun or no sun. Well that was the dream anyways.

We hopped out of the car, grabbed our gear, leashed the dog, and headed up the trail. The trip up the trail was not as bad as I had feared, even with the rain earlier in the week, the trail was very dry. The hike took us about 15 mins stopping every now and again for the dog, or to look at some nature. I told her we where close to the wall, it was right around the corner. Her eyes blazed with excitement. Then we rounded the corner, and I pointed at the wall we where to climb. A massive wall with little features to the untrained eye. It stared her down, I could see it in her face, she was a bit scared.

We set up the tarp under the climb, tied the dog to a tree , and with the rope over my shoulder, we looked at each other.

“You ready?” I asked. “We have to hike up from behind it so that we can set our rope up.”

“Mhhmm,” she replied nodding her head.

I could tell she was still scared, but I was going to do everything I could to help beat the fear. The walk to the top of the climb was pretty uneventful. When we got to the top, I announced the we where here. Gen looked around unsure. I pointed out the chains.

“So these are the chains.” I stated, getting the rope set up.

“That it?”she said, sounding unconvinced “Well I guess I am trusting my life with some metal and a little rope.”

“Is that a problem?” I asked, really hoping it was not a problem.

“I guess not,” she replied

I got the feeling that if it was anyone else trying to tell her that this was safe. They would have had a hard time. But I was glad that she trusted me. It made it a lot easier. I finished up getting the rope through the chains and down the wall. I showed her a quick demonstration of how to repel.

“This is the scariest part,” I said breathing hard, “this is where you have to trust the rope 100 percent.”

I hated this part. I hated this part more then I hated anything. I got my courage and leaned over the edge putting my weight on the rope. I started going down, trying to explain how to do certain things, such as how to sink under a under hang, by lowering your butt lower then the over hang and then plunging your legs to the wall. Once I got down I pulled the rope out of my ATC and told here that she was good to go. Two seconds later I see her coming down the wall. No fear at all. Maybe I am just a big pansy, or maybe nothing stops her. I am still not sure. She got down safely and now it was time to climb up.

I started teaching her how to tie the knots that she was going to need. Once she got that down it explained the wall

“So this wall; it’s a 5.7” I tell her.

“There is no way,” was her response.

“Climbs are a lot different outside, you have a lot more options, you can use what ever you want on that face.”

Then started her climb. It was a long one, and I knew it would be. This was her first outside climb, and it can make you very scared. Also the fact that my phone had lied to me. During the whole day the sun got more and more covered. And on top of that a cold wind had started blowing down the canyon from the snowy mountain top. I knew she was going to have a hard time. I know that when its cold the hold on the face feel sharp and hurt your fingers. But she would not stop. Every time she would get stumped or confused. She would look very frustrated, I would ask.

“Do you need down?”

“No I am fine,” she would always reply.

Most of the time was spent trying to tell her where to go. Because I knew where the holds were. I had done that wall before, also with my experience I could see all the holds available to her, whether she did or not.

“Put your foot into that crack”

“What crack?”

“That crack, left foot, down an inch, there you go”

After a point she really started to get it. She started to fly up the wall. It was hard to keep up with her. She even started to get smart with me. About ¾ the way up there is a branch from a tree that grows next to the wall. It a rule that your not supposed to use it. Well she went up there and reached for the branch. I yelled up there and told her that was not allowed, it was cheating. She smartly replied “You said I could use anything on the face” quoting me.

After the branch she finished very quickly and then started down. Once she got to the bottom, I gave her a hug and told her how proud of her I was, that she did her first outside wall like a champ. She was happy and smiled, which made me smile. And now it was my turn. I tied myself in, chalked up my hands and started climbing. The second I grabbed onto the wall, I was freezing. I was amazed she had climbed all the way up. She had stopped every once in a while to warm up her hands and now I knew why. The wall was ice cold. With no sun the wall just soaked up the cold wind. Making every hand hold sharp and painful. Even with this added factor. I still wanted to teach her. So while making my way up I showed her all the hold I wanted her to use. That they would in fact hold her and yes they where safe. I had told her many times she needed to trust her body and trust the equipment; easier said then done. But that’s why I tried to show her on my way up. So I finished the wall fairly quickly, and headed down.

It was not that late in the day, but we decided to head out. We were tired of being cold. We packed everything up and headed back down the trial, dog in tow. Once we got back to the car. I asked her if she had fun. She told me she did, and that would want to do it again. That made me smile. Rock climbing is one of my most favorite things to do. And the fact that I get to do it with some one that I care about as much a Gen, well that makes it even better.


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