I took my daughter rock climbing for the first time today and it was the first time for me to try it too. I've been interested in trying it for awhile because I like to climb things (or at least I did back when I was 12 years old) and I'm afraid of heights so I thought it'd be good for me. What has been holding me back is my concern that with rheumatoid arthritis - which is at its worst in my shoulders, wrists, hands and fingers, that there is no way I could rock climb. But apparently riding horses has made me stronger than I realized because I was definitely strong enough.
We went with my co-worker J. who is a very experienced climber and has taught many-a little kid to climb. My daughter went first and even just watching her start to go up past about ten feet took my breath away in an anxious sort of way. She apparently has this fear too because she tried to climb a tree with one of her friends and got about six feet off the ground and had a panic attack and I had to lift her down from the tree and she was shaking all over and obviously terrified. So, I'm hoping rock climbing early on will squelch that fear before it gets really started.
With the belay rope and harness though she was very confident and scrambled right up the wall. J. climbed up and put her stuffed bunny on a rock and said, "Now, go save Bunny!" and my daughter scrambled right up the wall saying, "I'm coming to get you, Bunny! Hang on!" Then she'd lean back in the harness and swing around and repel back down the wall like it was easiest thing in the world.
When it was my turn I felt that same since of fear and "Surely I'm going to die doing this," that I felt the first time I rode Atlas and the first time I rode Sparky the other day. I reminded myself that Sparky is probably harder to ride than climbing up a rock wall with a belay rope and that actually did not get through to me emotionally at all - I still felt really scared. So, I started climbing and J. said she was impressed with how well I was doing and I felt pretty confident until I got up about 10 feet and I started to shake and feel kind of confused and discombobulated. I said to myself a few times, "I can do this. I'm ok," and kept going a bit farther then said I needed to come back down and take a break for a minute.
So J. said, "Just lean back and walk down the wall with your legs straight," to which I said (while hanging on to tiny fake rocks a couple stories up) "Lean back???" and followed it up in my head, "You're fucking kidding me!" J. said again, "Seriously, just lean back." I had to muster all of my will to get back the instinct to just stay up there hanging onto the little fake rocks and leaned back and hey - I did not fall. And getting down was pretty easy! I went up again and went farther and this time coming down was easier, but I couldn't make it to the top of the beginner wall yet because just before the last five feet or so the rock stopped going straight up and leaned out over one's head just a little bit, which feels freaky when it's your first time and you're up that high. My husband guessed it was about three stories up and I don't really know how high it was.
So, J. suggested I practice falling and that helped my confidence a lot. After that I was able to make it to the top but by then I was really tired and it was pretty hot in there and I decided if I want to ward off over-exerting myself and setting off a huge flare-up I should stop for the night.
So, yay! Conquered a fear and did something I did not think I was physically or emotionally capable of doing. Pretty cool! Now I'm hooked and want to keep going and trying hard walls!