Following an entire summer of climbing in a gym (http://www.upperlimits.com/bloomington/) in my hometown, I was really excited to get outside and do some “real” climbing. I learned that climbing outside is quite a bit different than it is inside a grain silo. Today was the first of hopefully many trips to the local climbing and bouldering spots around Bass Lake.
We drove the vans up at about 10:00 with all the gear (shoes, harnesses, helmets, etc.) and hiked down to “The Axel”, a huge slab of granite that resides in a beautiful valley of overwhelming coniferous trees and a flowing creek of mountain melt water that felt more refreshing than any pool or water park.
While Rob (the director of High Sierra) and Katie (a grad assistant at High Sierra) set up the climbing routes, the rest of us had “belay school” with Meredith (the Resident Director of High Sierra) where she taught us how to belay, or hold fast, a climber. Once the four routes were set up and we received a little training from Rob on how to ascend the granite wall, the first climbers were off.
After I conquered a few of the routes, Meredith dared me to climb one blindfolded. Just the thought of groping around for the next hold while trying to find a spot to place my toes to support my entire body sounded ridiculously frightening. But after a little coaxing, I wrapped a bandana around my eyes, tied my figure-eight loop through the harness, strapped on my helmet, and took the first, fear-inducing step. Half way up the route I decided that this was a very frustrating way to rock climb, and I began to get angry when I couldn’t find a single crack or hole to place my fingers. With sweat dripping down my back, a bandana tied around my eyes, and no idea on how I was about to continue up this vertical obstacle, I decided to calm down and listen. With a few directions from my belayer and Meredith, I was able to feel around and find the correct holds and finish the route!
With a simple blindfold, I learned a lot about trust, a great deal about climbing, and a little bit about life – that whenever we can’t find our next “hold”, we’ve got to trust that God is still “belaying” us, and that if we simply ask, he’ll show us the “route”.
After all that work and philosophical thinking, it was time to hop in the river. Swimming in the clear, cool pools created by giant dips in the granite rocks that guide the water from high in the Sierra mountains down the mouth of Bass Lake, and playing under the waterfalls formed by fallen trees and boulders that may have flown from up river, or fallen from above, was easily one of the best moments of my first week up at High Sierra.
Today was Monday. Tomorrow is a new day. I can’t wait to see what it holds…