I live in a city with mountains. I love to hike mountain trails. I love staring at the mountains. I love being on top of the mountain and staring at everything around it. And while yes, I've hiked the mountains on numerous occasions, I've never had a chance to go mountain climbing. Or, more specifically, rock climbing.

I don't know. Something about putting myself on those cliffs voluntarily, with no real cushion should I happen to fall. Whatever the reason, I've never dared to even entertain the idea of climbing the side of a real mountain. And I plan to keep it that way.

However, I did have the opportunity to go to the rock climbing gym tonight. I'd never been to one, so I jumped at the chance to give it a try. After all, climbing to heights two and three stories up has always sounded like great fun, so of course I had to go for it. Here's how the experience went:

  • I pay for the time and rentals of shoes and harness. I gear up, and, once all set, am told that one of my leg harnesses is on backwards. I remove all gear and fix the leg harness.
  • I get trained on how to belay, which is the act of holding the harness rope for the other person climbing. This is rather important, because if you fall from a great height, it's nice to have someone there to make sure you don't accidentally die.
  • I strap the harness to my belt and get climbing (this is climbing attempt #1). Much adrenaline flows through my body. Before long I'm halfway up the wall. Like an idiot, I look down. I look up again, and decide to keep going. I keep going. My hands start hurting, but still I keep going. I almost make it to the top, missing it by only a foot or two. I holler that I'm ready to come down. I realize that no one explained to me how to make the trip down. I hear "let go of the rocks and fall backward!" and decide everyone down on the ground is crazy. I finally do as they suggest, and discover, to my delight, that the descent is a fantastic time.
  • I wait a few minutes, then decide to climb again (climbing attempt #2). This time, I'm no idiot. I don't look down. I climb to the top, am very shaky by the time I get there, and then yell "down!", ready to get this land mammal's legs back on solid ground. I decide I'm done for a while, and perhaps rock climbing is not for me after all.
  • I wait around for a while, happily belaying for others and watching them climb. I realize quickly that I paid a good dollar for this experience, so I might as well make the most of it. I decide to take the plunge and climb some more. Thus ensues a great many attempts to climb, some very successful, others slightly less so (read: quite freaky, and extremely unsuccessful).

After I had done it a few times, I really started to get the hang of it, and actually started enjoying it. Suddenly, the idea of climbing high became less daunting, and more adventurous. I still preferred the trip down, which involves letting go of the rocks and then repelling back to the ground. But nonetheless, I actually liked the task of climbing up, if only for the sake of getting to enjoy the trip down.

Perhaps, in the near future, I just might go back for more. Heck, I don't regularly frequent the other variety of gym, and for my money, this version is far more fun, not to mention a full-body workout. I'll be surprised tomorrow if I'm able to walk, and also if I'm able even to eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I'm already massively sore.

On the plus side, while my hands got tired, and quite callused, the rock gym knows how to treat their patrons. On a water break, I went to wash my hands, which were dry and hurting, and in the bathroom was a full bottle of hand lotion, specifically for dry hands. Yay for pampering!