- Arts & Entertainment
- Health & Lifestyle
- Bits & Bytes
- Events calendar
Photo by Ben Ross
Of all the sports I’ve encountered in my outdoor life, I never imagined myself participating in the extreme sport of rock climbing. So as my toes cling to a centimetre-wide ledge 30 feet in the air and my fingers balance the weight of my body precariously against a cliff face, I wonder how I got here.
The people who live in and around Fernie carry with them a sense of adventure, a need for the adrenalin rush and always a desire to see things from a different perspective. Such people spread that desire to us less adventurous, but just as eagerly willing, folk by way of invitation. In this particular case, it was an invite by my boyfriend and his avid rock-climbing friends who find themselves on a new excursion every week.
So while I thought I’d never scale a 90-degree cliff, here I am attached to a harness reflecting on the outrageously amazing adventure this has become.
We leave Fernie for a great climbing location just outside Cranbrook on a Saturday in July and as we arrive at our campsite I see the wall we are set to climb—20 metres of smoky black rock towering above a bubbling creek. I secretly tell myself I won’t climb today; I’ll just watch the other climbers and see how it makes me feel. Maybe I’ll climb tomorrow.
But then Jimmy Long, Nate Trueman and Ben Ross have me in a borrowed pair of climbing shoes and a harness and before I know it I’m staring at this flat rock I’m apparently supposed to conquer.
Where do I put my hands? Where do I put my feet? How the heck am I supposed to do this? All of these questions flood my brain and I’m certain I won’t be able to pull myself up such an unaccommodating rock, when suddenly I’ve found a narrow shelf for my feet and I’m up against the cliff. Before long I’m ten feet in the air and trying to sort out where to put my feet.
“You’re foot’s on a great hold,” yells Nate from below, who is belaying me from the ground. Nate wears a harness with a belay device attached and feeds the rope to me as I climb higher up the cliff. If at any time I slip and lose my grip on the rock, he tightens the rope and prevents me from falling to my death.
It’s quite safe, really.
With great patience from Nate, I make it to the crux of my first climb. The crux is supposed to be the most challenging part of any climb—usually an overhang with limited holds from the climber. If a climber makes it past the crux, he or she is sure to complete the climb. I don’t make it past the crux, but a couple hours later I’m back in the harness and completing my second climb to the top.
With shouts from below from Nate, who refuses to let me bail from this climb, I continue up nearly 20 metres and reach to touch the anchor at the top. My forearms are aching and my fingertips feel raw and sweaty despite the white climbing chalk, but everyone says I “slayed” the climb. As I begin my descent I’m level with the looming pine trees, but the height doesn’t frighten me. In fact, leaning into a cliff from such a high height is exhilarating.
The next day we head back to the wall and I watch the climbers stun me with their skills. Even Mandy, who has only been rock climbing for a short time, is quick and technical on her climbs and makes it look effortless.
“You guys are like mountain goats,” I say as Jimmy tackles a climb called Borat.