This past weekend, I celebrated my 6 months as a beginning climber by bouldering with my son in-law. Yes, it’s true that when I wasn’t flailing on the V2’s, I was happily obtaining pulley injuries on my fingers. I was able to perform a backstep, jammed my fingers in the cracks I saw and even mantled! Yes, I told myself, I was not a Gumby. At least not out here.
In the gym, it’s a different story. Watching the experienced climbers smoothly lead 5.11c’s is intimidating, especially when I struggle to finish a 5.10b and positively flail at a 10c. And trying to a sitting start when I boulder is as likely a failure as the possibility of my playing in the NBA. So, being a basic incompetent beginner, what could I do to avoid being ridiculed? Here’s what I came up with:
1) I never offer beta, to anyone. You need to know where the bathroom is, you’re on your own.
2) Watch, but never stare at the good climbers, especially if they’re wearing Lululemon pants.
3) Before going inside the gym, I sprinkle some chalk on my pant legs.
4) If I catch anyone looking my way, I give them a nod.
5) To avoid looking like a poser, I don’t wear anything made by Prana or Diablo Rock Climbing gym tee shirts. Instead, I wear work pants and tee shirts from Vancouver and east coast breweries.
6) I utilize the T-rex arm look at all times, even when opening the trunk of my car or telling someone how to get to the Safeway.
In every sport, there is a learning curve, some longer than others. I’ve discovered that for most people, the learning curve in climbing is a 5.15 while learning to lift weights and shop at the GNC is a 5.6. I ran on my first track team in the 6th grade and have raced every year since then. What started as a 880 yard race has evolved to a 50K. We “runners” would make fun of joggers as they waddled around the track. I grew up and stopped doing that and learned to respect people who have chosen to live outdoors and break a sweat. I hope that the “good” climbers feel the same way when they see me flail and fall off a 5.10c.