My notes for this post literally just say “something about rock climbing”, and I was aggravated with myself until I realized that I’d never actually talked separately about climbing before. I’ve talked about yoga a ton, and while I usually drop a paragraph into my wrap-ups about climbing, it’s never been spotlighted, and it should be! So I guess this is my unexpected history with rock climbing? Sure!
My brother started rock climbing somewhere in 2019, I believe? It might have been earlier than that, but I’m not sure. He was definitely climbing for several months to a year before he finally convinced me to come. He goes through these periods of being obsessed with a sport until he gets good at it, and then he starts to challenge himself in insane ways before eventually finding a new sport. He usually keeps at most of his sports–I laugh when people call him a triathlete, he’s just a multiathlete–and climbing has been a constant for him for a while.
In December of 2019, he finally convinced me to go with him after he’d gotten my sister to go, and she said it wasn’t that bad. He was going with a bunch of his friends, plus a few of their girlfriends, who I knew enough to hang out with. And when I say that it was some big ole insta love, I’m not exaggerating at all. I still remember, about halfway during my first tattoo, having this deep knowledge of yes and more. That’s how I felt during my first climb. It was exhilarating, and I wanted to do so much more. Despite the fact that my hands were stiff as boards, my skin was beginning to rip along my fingers, and my shoulders were exhausted, I wanted more of this.
There are three types of climbing, and, generally, they follow a kind of if you can do this, you’re ready for this level of skill. Bouldering is on a ten foot wall, and you’re not attached to anything. Most of the time, when you reach the top of a route, you jump from the wall and land on those huge foam floors that they use in gymnastics. One of the big things is learning how to fall properly so you don’t injure yourself, which is, uhhhhh, foreshadowing? Unfortunately. Bouldering is honestly not my favorite thing to do. The routes are only a few moves high, it’s over fairly quickly, and it’s a different kind of difficult. You can’t really rest and think about where you’re going next unless you want to be hanging on with only the strength of your own two hands. It’s nowhere near as satisfying as top rope because even when you do make it to the top, it’s only been a few short seconds since you started.
Top rope, however, is where it’s at. I love top rope, and I know that I’ll eventually graduate to lead climbing, but I’m having so much fun that I’m not in a rush. Top rope is done on a 40-50 foot wall, and, obviously, you’re attached to a harness. The climbs can take upward of 10-15 minutes if you’re struggling, but usually are about five minutes long. (Or less, if it’s a relatively easy one.) It’s so much more satisfying when you get to the top of a climb that not only takes longer, but requires a heck of a lot of forethought and concentration during the climb. There have been many times where I have to just sit back in the harness and review the climb ahead to figure out how to keep moving up.
When I first started climbing, we bouldered to get me used to what rock climbing felt like, but the first time I strapped into a harness, I was a goner. I would only boulder to warm up with the others to make them happy, but I was the first one to charge downstairs and get on the ropes. It wasn’t long before I learned how to belay so that I could participate even more, and, before I knew it, I had a Central Rock membership and was going climbing two or three times a week.
It would have been perfect even if CRG hadn’t posted about needing a yoga teacher, but alas, fate was ready to make it so that I was always going to be a climber. I think they put up the announcement in February of 2020? I’d only been climbing for a couple months when they started the search for a yoga teacher, and, as is often the case, I was the first person to email asking after the position.
Interviewing to teach yoga is always my favorite. The owner of the gym & I got together in the middle of my work day for a quick, 15-minute chat about Lord of the Rings, the kind of music we each liked, how long I’d been teaching and where, what classes I was interested in tackling, and what I was going to do on my UK trip. Most people know pretty quickly if you’re the right person to teach yoga, and I was hired on the spot. I was slated to start teaching a Monday class that wouldn’t start until after I got back from the UK, and which would be in addition to my current Tues/Wed/Sat schedule at the studio in Middleton that I’d been teaching at for four years.
I think we all know what comes next. I was scheduled to go to the UK in March, which didn’t happen because we cancelled our trip one week before we were supposed to go because a pandemic was rearing its ugly head across the world and making waves in the US. I can so bring myself right back to that week when everything finally changed. On Monday, I cancelled my trip. On Tuesday & Wednesday, I taught my two classes while my students asked me if I knew what was going to happen with the studio, and I kept saying that I wasn’t sure, but we’d probably be fine. On Thursday, Boston Ballet cancelled its upcoming show with a hopeful postponement of a month or two out. On Friday, something told me to get to the gym or else, so I gathered my girls, and we went for what we didn’t yet know was going to be our last climbing sesh for over a year.
And it was the last one. On my way home from the gym that night, my yoga boss called me to say that she’d just gotten back from vacation and was going to cancel the weekend classes while she figured out what to do. On Saturday morning, CRG announced that they would be temporarily closing their doors. On Monday, Barefoot closed theirs, as well.
We all know what 2020 was like. After a few months of trying to stay afloat virtually, Barefoot closed its doors permanently in August. I was kind of freaking out thinking that I was about to not be teaching for the first time in five years when the owner of CRG reached out and asked if I wanted to start teaching outside in their overflow parking lot. They’d opened the gym again with very limited availability and lots of rules, and while they couldn’t host yoga inside, they wanted to offer it somehow. And though I didn’t climb for over a year, I was at CRG every single Monday from August until October, when it finally got too cold. Cases were starting to go down, though, and the gym was opening up its availability a little more, so I moved inside, taught with a mask on for two months, and then, for the first time in five years (for real this time), I stopped teaching.
When cases went up again in January, CRG limited their availability again, and the yoga classes were set aside to make room for the climbers. And even when it might be possible to teach again, I’d just started a new job, and the only time slot available was two hours after I got out of work. It was too cold to loiter around in my car waiting, and I was afraid of going into the gym proper, so I said goodbye for about five months.
I can also bring myself right back to that fateful Wednesday in May, too. I’d already emailed the owner at CRG that I was about to be fully vaccinated and would be back in the gym soon, so I could pick up my class again if they were willing to have me. I was overjoyed when our old crew strolled in on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after our second shot, and were met with exuberant hellos. “I know you!” the owner shouted, and that was the beginning of an amazing summer.
It’s been four months since I started going back to the gym, and it’s been incredible. Not only do I teach four times a week now, but my climbing is at the top of its game right now. That foreshadowing I mentioned resulted in me no longer being able to boulder–I’ve got a messed up lumbar, and any kind of impact off of the bouldering wall, even if it’s only just a little jump, is very bad for me–but my friends have been awesome at hitting the ropes with me anytime we’re together. They usually climb on the days that I teach so I have something to do for the two hours in between, and I am seriously crushing those routes. I was probably at a 5.7 level when we stopped climbing in 2020, and ya girl is getting confident enough in her 5.9s to maybe even try a 5.10 soon.
Which, of course, means lead climbing is up next. Once you’re comfortable on a 5.9, you’re good to start learning how to lead climb, which is kind of the same as top rope in that you have a harness and ropes to get you up the big wall, but you’re the one taking the rope up with you and hooking it into clips as you go up. It’s a little bit terrifying, but my brother and a few of his friends are lead climb certified, and they’ve been overly excited for me to get there, so I think it’s probably coming soon.
The other day, my mom said that she truly never thought that I, of all her children, would be the gym rat, and she’s so dead on. I’ve long been in love with solitary hobbies like writing and yoga, and while climbing is definitely a community sport, it’s also a solitary one. You don’t have to interact with the people around you, but we always end up doing it anyway because we’re all the same kind of weird, and we just want to see each other succeed. Joining a climbing gym was probably one of the best things I ever did for both my mental and physical health, and I’m so glad that my brother convinced me to go.
Here’s to many more years of climbing and teaching yoga at CRG!