Quitters need not apply | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Quitters need not apply

Rock climbing is not one of those sports you can change your mind about midway through. This should seem rather obvious. But it took lying flat against granite with no idea how to move in either direction to figure out quitting was not an option.

Colin, my climbing partner, shouted words of encouragement. “Look all around you, there are tons of hand and foot holds.”

Yeah, right, is what I thought. Maybe if he had been so kind as to have chiseled out a few notches for me on his way up, I would have seen what he was talking about.

My paralysis eventually vanished and up I continued, one baby step at a time.

My colleague wanted to show me “his” Tahoe. I will think twice about wanting to know what “his” Tahoe is when the snow starts to fly.

We started with breakfast at Chris’ Cafe in Tahoe Paradise. Just a word of advice to the rock climbing rookie — don’t climb on a full stomach of eggs if you don’t have nerves of steel.

My stomach was bound to be a bit queasy because I have a slight fear of heights. Still, I know I was better off with fuel in my system.

We parked on Sawmill Road, then hiked the half mile or so approach to the base of Pie Shop — known to non-climbers as Twin Peaks.

It’s that rock formation you see driving into town on Highway 50 on the left side beyond Lake Tahoe Golf Course.

We were not alone in our quest to ascend this 150-or-so-foot slab of rock. Perched on Lunch Rock we got our gear together. I had borrowed shoes from a friend. Like most sports these days, special shoes are critical. I also borrowed a harness, where ropes and metal clips are conveniently fastened.

Colin had the rest of the whiz-bangs to get us up and down the route we chose — Crepes Corner.

We had two choices in how to get to the real starting point. We opted to go up through a crevice where I felt like I could barely reach the ledge. If I slipped, there was no doubt I was a goner or that I would at least severely injure myself.

This probably was not the smartest thing to be doing without health insurance. I ignored that reality and instead embraced the words of a friend who said that you need to try everything twice to make sure you don’t like it.

Colin refused to give into my fears. Looking down I knew I could not go farther. He decided we would rope up there to give me the feeling of being secure.

We eventually got to the starting point. I was feeling woozy looking up and down. Usually I have no problem looking up, but this was not good.

I told Colin to go on up. I would watch how he did it and then maybe we could do some bouldering instead so I could get used to the shoes to see if they really did grip well enough to have me stand on the rock at a 90-degree angle.

He went ahead, somewhat dismissing what I said. He was determined to get me to the top.

Once he was up there and secured himself to the anchor he told me I was on belay. This meant it was OK for me to start climbing. There is a whole language just for climbing. Much of it is rooted in safety precautions.

Climb on, he said. Climb on I did.

I have a huge competitive streak. Seeing a 20-year-old guy having some difficulty getting up on his first day made me want to prove that a woman 17 years older than him could scamper to the top. And to think that he had spent numerous hours in a gym on a climbing wall and I have never been on a climbing wall made me want to prove myself even more.

I didn’t exactly scamper, but I did make it to the top. When Colin said to let go before I reached him I thought he was nuts. But he said it so I could see that the rope had me. Even so, grasping the knots in the rock and wedging my toes in the divots felt more comfortable than dangling with a rope at my waist.

What goes up must come down. Ugh.

“Get your booty down” was the constant refrain from Colin. I was supposed to have my legs perpendicular to the rock, to not have a death grip on the rope and to ease myself to Lunch Rock.

It truly was an unnatural feeling. But it was also an incredible one — going up and down.

I’m sure Half Dome is next.

Kathryn Reed may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or e-mail kreed@tahoedailytribune.com

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