Bums, Belays, and Look out Below!

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time to attempt something I’ve always been itching to do:  rock climbing.  And not the kind done on indoor walls with padded flooring.  Real out-in-the-open, unforgiving stone ROCK CLIMBING!

Out in the Pyrenees in the Ariege region with it’s beautiful slopes lie a multitude of rock faces covered in climbers pretending to be Spiderman. 

Even though it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, there were a few moments of apprehension before starting.  Like attempting to figure out which way was up on the harness.  Or when Donna wanted me to tie my security knot (walking me through of course).  Then there’s the whole ‘where to start?’ when staring straight up at this seemingly flat face of rock. 

Watching others you wonder ‘how on earth?’, but then it’s your turn and you preserve, slowly going up and up with each little step and hand hold.  Until you get to the point where you can’t seem to make a move at all.  Limbs getting sore and there’s no place to set your foot, and no where to grab hold with your hand.  Every muscle in your body tense trying to keep you in the place where you re.  Mind solely focused on the task at hand.  Moving slightly, feeling around, using divets in the rock that are barely visible to support your weight.  Ever upward straining all the time to see the final goal.  Then the sweet feeling of triumph when you’re actually there!

Now it’s time to relax, but one of the most difficult parts is still to come:  the descent.  This is a relaxing ‘walk’ down the rock face while to seat yourself into the harness low enough that your legs are at 90 degree angles to the rock.  Your weight born by the belayer below you slowly step your way down more keeping balance than anything else.  However, for a first time climber this is often the most difficult.  The death grip mush come off the rock and weight comes off your feet.  Floating on air!  You push aside thoughts of whether or not the rope will hold and begin to descend. 

Actually, I found the job of belaying much more difficult than that of climbing.  Not only hard on the arms hauling the rope around and holding it securely, was the knowledge that the person above is literally in your hands. 

All in all it was a fabulous day!  Did 4 climbs in total ranging through the 5a, 5b, and 5c levels of difficulty.  I wanted to try a 5, but the day went by too quickly.  There was one climb that Brain was sweating out for quite awhile, but in the end his determination conquered it.  Rock climbing is the perfect blend of challenge and rest in beautiful mountain settings.  I may be hooked…

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