On Saturday, I took to Jackson Falls at Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois for my friend Kyle’s bachelor party. Along with camping and hiking, my friends and I decided to do some rock climbing.
Now, I have done some rock climbing before when I was in Boy Scouts, but it was only indoors at Vertical Escape in Evansville, Indiana. Also, that was, I don’t know, ten years ago? So it has been a while since I have done any sort of climbing.
Saturday was incredibly hot, so walking to the area where we were going to climb took quite a bit of energy in itself.
After a small walk, we found a boulder and did some boulder climbing to start things off.
Bouldering is climbing without using any safety equipment other than a pad to fall on and some friendly supervision and is normally done on smaller rocks instead of the giant walls generally associated with climbing.
I did not participate in bouldering when I saw that my friends were having some trouble with this particular rock. If they couldn’t pull it off then I knew I couldn’t either with my limited experience and lack of strength required.
We should also note that I’m not the strongest or most physically fit person you will ever meet, so it was a little intimidating for me when we stepped up to the giant rock slab that we would be climbing up.
On the rock face, there were metal rings put in the rock for climbers to clip their equipment to so that they can safely climb.
Tyler went first and “sport climbed,” the wall, meaning that he attaches himself to the wall as he goes up. In the process, he attached the rope to the top of the wall so everyone else can climb safely. I’ve never watched climbing like this before, so it was kind of scary to watch. The clips were fairly far apart and if he fell close to one, he was falling to the clip that was below him before he was caught.
Tyler got everything set up and repelled down the wall and we began our climbs. I watched a few people go first, taking mental notes of where people were putting their feet and where the were pushing, pulling maneuvering and everything else they were doing so that I could have a successful climb.
Will started things off and successfully made it to the top and was followed by another successful climb by Ben. Then it was my turn.
I, lacking equipment, borrowed some shoes (thanks Ben) and a harness (thanks Jon) and strapped on a helmet and stood at the base of the wall while Will assisted in tying my in. Once all the checks were complete, I began my ascent.
So here I am, staring at the base of the wall trying to exactly figure out how to get started. There is only one small sliver that I could put my foot on and a small crack that only half of the tip of my finger will fit in. I go for it, and promptly slip and fall a tad, but Jon caught me since he was manning the other end of the rope.
After a small push from Will, I made it past the start and continued my climb.
The rock we were climbing was more of a crack between two rocks and right beneath them was a small ledge about a quarter of the way up the wall. I made it to that, stood tall to some small applause and looked up to continue on.
From this point on, there were no more pushes. No more assists. Only me.
I take my time and shimmy up the wall a little more. At this point I’m covered in sweat and I’m wiping my hands on my already drenched shirt to keep them dry since I forgot to grab someone’s chalk bag before climbing.
So I’m pulling and pushing myself up this rock and I finally get to the halfway point where it gets really tight and turns into more pushing yourself up than pulling yourself up and I can’t figure out where to go. At this point I am exhausted and I stare for a few moments, but ultimately decide that it’s time to come down and call off my climb halfway up the rock.
I get down and untied and immediately plop down on another rock, trying to keep myself dry from the sweat while the rest of the group begin their climbs.
Rock climbing is definitely harder than it looks and I’ve earned a lot of respect for people that do this professionally or for fun.
It was a lot of fun with Kyle, Jonathan, Will, Ben and Tyler and in any other circumstances I probably wouldn’t have tried it. While rock climbing may not be the exact sport or activity fit for me, it’s definitely something that I would try again.