Rock Climbing – A Beginners Memoir

One of my great early summer adventures. On a hot muggy June evening, I set out with three other members of Prince George Alpine Club towards Giscome. The rock face we intended to climb was by the side of the road, across from Eaglet lake which lay shimmering invitingly in the heat of the quiet evening.

As we left the city behind I relaxed. The sounds of nature became audible, the swish of wheat in a field, lake water lapping onto the rocky shore and the chattering of birds in the trees.

Just watch this amazing video for rock climbing beginners:

Because Barb and I were beginners we decided to skip the lower rock face and instead climb a few hundred meters up the rocky cliff to a second rock face. Weighed down with long, thick climbing ropes, harnesses, helmets, drinking water and snacks, we were glad to find ropes, someone had thoughtfully left behind, which we hung onto to haul ourselves up against the steep incline.

At the top of the rock face, Mark attached a bright yellow sling to an anchor conveniently screwed into the rock. He attached the climbing robe and threw it down to the base. We put on our harnesses. Jo-Ann attached herself to the rope stepped off the edge of the cliff and was gone. We watched her lower herself at ninety-degree angle feet planted firmly on the rock with only her harness attached to the rope for support.

She became the anchor for us beginners. If she saw us fall she would tug on the rope pulling it taut, the force causes the rope to lock, effectively stopping us. I was next. It was the moment of reckoning. I was to step backwards into space off the edge of the cliff. The concept was easy but fear seized my brain. I asked Mark to hold my hand while I stepped off. Suddenly it was fun. Standing at a ninety-degree angle was exhilarating.

I soon discovered how to move the rope along the rappel device and lower myself down. A raspberry bush caught my attention. I couldn’t resist picking a few for the tart burst of flavor in my mouth. Once at the bottom it was time to go back up. Jo-Ann showed us how to loop the rope through the haul loops and tie a figure eight. We put on climbing shoes, tight leather-like ballerina slippers with sticky soles for gripping the rock.

My first ascent was fairly easy. I used my arms a lot to haul myself up. Apparently, you are supposed to use your hands only for support letting your legs do the work. So next I tried a more challenging climb to see if I could master this technique. So different from what I’ve done before, like snow sledding I tried earlier.

Very soon it became difficult. I felt like an incompetent fly on the proverbial wall. Jo-Ann was very supportive and encouraging. Whenever I got frustrated or too petrified to move, her calm voice, telling me I was doing great and reminding me there were lots of tiny cracks for my hands and feet was reassuring. With her help, I was able to go three-quarters of the way up. By this time I had, had enough. My feet, stuffed into shoes several sizes too small, were killing me and I couldn’t find anywhere to place my hands or feet.

Dusk was falling like a warm dark blanket. Mosquitoes were making their presence known. At the bottom I took off the shoes, my toes luxuriated in the freedom. We packed up the ropes and made the descent back to the car. I enjoyed the trip. Mark and Jo-Ann are wonderful coaches with lots of patience. Now I feel ready to tackle my first mountaineering trip.