The perfect mixture of scared and stoked, is the best way for me to describe my first outdoor rock climbing experience. I am a very bad example when doing something for the first time. I usually just google the activity that I want to do, watch a few YouTube videos, and then go out and do it. That usually works well for something like basketball or knitting, not so much outdoor rock climbing. Granted, I had been climbing indoors for quite a while now, so it wasn’t my climbing skills that I was concerned with.
I found a mountain, Ragged Mountain, that was nearby and it had a cliff face of 100ft. I had never been to the mountain before so getting there was the challenge number 1. After getting to the top and looking over the edge, my nerves began to rattle around more and more. My climbing partner, Laz, had climbed outdoors a few times, but by no means an expert. While I was busy looking for a bolted, fixed anchor, he was explaining to me that we were just going to wrap some webbing around a tree and hook a few carabiners to it for the rope to go through. Nerves getting a little worse.
We didn’t have enough rope to anchor over the top of the cliff face (200+ feet), so we needed to find something halfway up the wall to anchor around. After wandering around the bottom of wall looking for the red squares which indicate a route that is climbed often, we found a spot that had a tree growing on a ledge approximately 40ft up the cliff. Perfect! The two of us free-solo our way up few ledges and cracks that led us to where the tree was. A tree that was no more than 7 inches in diameter was what we settled as our anchor. I watched very carefully as Laz tied all the knots and webbing, double checking each one. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking there was no way this tree stump was going to hold us.
A few test falls later, we were scrambling up that rock face, one failed attempt at a time. What I didn’t realize was, since I was so used to climbing with clearly labeled holds in the gym, I almost looked like a fish out of water on the wall. I would just throw my hands up on each ledge or into every crack just to make progress up the wall, needless to say that did not work. It took a few attempts on the wall to actually understand the holds on the route, you know, the good ones, the great ones, and the ones you definitely need to stay away from. With each climb, I grew more and more confidence on the wall, to the point of which I forgot about how nervous I was about setting our own anchor.
What I learned was to read the route a lot closer than when I normally climb. Know that there won’t always be a spot for your feet or hands like there was in the gym. By the time the sun set on our day of climbing, we were spent. At the same time, we were hooked on climbing outdoors from then on.
Don’t Forget to::
-Never climb outdoors without someone who has had experience
-Learn as much as you can from the internet before you go. About the climb, location, and safety
-Triple check all knots and ropes. Never have a single point of failure in your set-up
-For once, enjoy the views while you climb.