Posted in health, Lifestyle, travel

Rock climbing 101

Activity: Rock climbing class
Lessons: Rope management, climbing techniques, climbing etiquette and safety.
Where: Ololosokuan
When: 13th June 2021
Service: Lets Drift & Urbanite Camps
Charges: Ksh 1,250

When you do things you think you can’t, you teach yourself that you actually can. From there the world unfolds in magical ways. You begin to see possibilities, instead of obstacles and every so often I need to teach myself that lesson.” Fearless and Far.

Prior to planning for this activity all I had in mind was overcoming height phobia. The phobia where short people can’t reach for things high up. Not until I partook in it that my eyes were opened to a different perspective, mental health. You probably wondering what rock climbing has to do with mental health but it has to do with a lot.

First of all, it didn’t matter if you got what a harness, carabiner, rope sizes or a figure 8 knot meant. However, it was key to at least grasp where each went for safety purposes. Theory doesn’t work well with most of us and hands on experience is what we eagerly waited for. Top roping was our beginner level where a belayer was fully prepared to give us all the tension while cutting us some slack. However, everyone had to make their own figure 8 and knots for hooking to the carabiner. This I later learnt was to trust our own fastening skills.

Tortoise rock was our friend for the day. Sitting pretty at 30m high, our minds started playing games on how to approach it. No one wanted to be first and tensed faces made enough room. As we cheered on each other, made it to the top and down safely, it was time to reflect. Did our skills up there portray fear or what exactly were we thinking about?

As I started climbing the tortoise, its legs gave me the needed balance and assurance all was simple. The shell proved to be slippery but manageable. My fear started cropping up between its neck and head. One had to navigate a huge boulder carefully by pushing your body and stretching out. “I think my shortness will not allow me to get to the top. Can’t reach it.” I blurted out. My trainers could hear none of it. They encouraged me to go ahead, to push and not fear my height.

My mind gave up after two attempts, told my belayer to slack it because I was fully prepared to descend. Then my left leg started shaking. I was urged to get close to the rock and relax. More like hugging it. Maybe the rock gave me an assurance or I started believing in myself because after that moment I was back at the neck shouting tension and climbed to the finish.

The climbing down technique was another to give the chills. How do you let go but trust the belayer and a harness? Quick one, for descending one needs to keep their legs straight, lean back to the harness, hold onto the carabiner and figure 8 knot while at the same time spreading out your arms to avoid falling or going to a wrong direction to quickly hold on to a rock! Any who, I did it.

Major lessons from each climber
Trust– major trust issues need to see the door because it came into play when trusting the belayer and harness. We need to trust those around us.
Fear of unknown– this always hinders us from engaging in activities or undertaking major steps in life because we simply don’t know what lies ahead. We end up missing all the beauty.
Learning to say NO– when cheering one of us, she couldn’t continue from the neck to the head. Although we gave her all the motivation, I was pleased that she decided to block out the noise and listen to her body. Standing your ground is very important.
Getting to the top– I have this fear in me of reaching higher heights. One where it seems I want to get there but lack the motivation to push further and if I lack a navigation path, it’s done for me. You feel me?
Be kind– we all battling demons, lets spread positive vibes and cheer each other.

Rock climbing jargons in my own understanding
Belayer– one who controls the ropes and ensures the safety of the climber.
Carabiner– clip like metal that attaches the rope to the harness. Always locked and they vary from 8, basket that is used in belaying and a quick draw used in lead climbing to allow the rope to flow freely.
Harness– an ‘adult diaper’ that provides support by using ropes.
Figure 8- this is where the carabiner goes through to connect the rope to the harness.
Knot– made below figure 8 to secure the rope in case figure 8 fails.
Rock– warns other climbers that a loose rock is falling or an object.
Climbing– said by a climber to alert the belayer and anchor that you’ve started climbing.
Climb on– said by a belayer to motivate a climber to start climbing.
Tension– said by a climber to alert the belayer to tighten the ropes when ascending/descending a rock.
Slack -said by a climber to a belayer when ascending/descending a rock to loosen the ropes.
Chalk– used by climbers to avoid slippery hands and give the needed grip.