This section was my favorite wilderness section of all semester. I have never experienced anything like starting the day on the ground and then at the end of the day being able to look down at that same spot from the top of a mountain.
Theres nothing like feeling you’re on top of the world.
On the first day we were issued our gear (a harness, carabiners, ATC, webbing, prusik loop, helmet, and climbing shoes) and practiced using it on the climbing tower at camp before hitting the real rock. I had never rock climbed, or really climbed anything other than trees, in any sense before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very difficult at first, and that made me nervous for the rest of the section.
We started on actual rocks with some bouldering. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing done without any ropes or harnesses. Though you don’t need hardware for this activity most people use climbing shoes and chalk to help stay on the rock. Bouldering was a lot of fun, I wasn’t very good at it (which I know is seeming to be a reoccuring theme) but it was nice to get a feel for being on real rock before beginning the actual climbing. I had a lot of almosts during bouldering but only made it to the top of one called “E for Everyone.” Bouldering was a challenge by choice activity, meaning we only had to participate as much as we wanted to and could just hang out and watch when we weren’t feeling up to it. It was nice to have time to hang out as a group and relax together.
Next we top roped; top roping is a style of climbing in which the climber is attached to a rope that goes up the route, through an anchor, and back down to the belayer. We top roped at two places: Rumbling Bald and the Chimneys at Linville Gorge. The first day at Rumbling Bald, the first day of top roping at all, we had three routes to chose from. I only managed to make it to the top of one route (I spent about 20 minutes smacking the wall in frustration on one unable to make it over the first push before my group made me take a rest). I can’t remember the name of the route I did, but it was slightly slanted, had a section with a big crack down the middle on one part of it, and I had to get a boost onto the first part to get started. In the beginning I couldn’t riddle out how to smoothly and successfully advance up the rock. After a bit of fumbling it began to make a little sense and I managed to make it to the top.
At the second top roping site I had similar troubles and found myself getting incredibly frustrated and discouraged with myself. At this point I had pretty much given up on being a rock climber because everyone else had managed to succeed while I had made minimal progress. Sometimes when you’re frustrated you just gotta take a drink of water from your Nalgene, take your climbing shoes off, have an hour long conversation with the proctor of the year about theology and marriage and letting things go, remind yourself that the whole point of this is to have fun, and then you hit the rock on all three routes, make it to the top of two of them and land a sick dyno on the third (I didn’t get to the top on that one because I figured I’d quit while I was ahead).
Following top roping we did two days of multi-pitching at Tablerock. Multi-pitching is a type of climbing where the route is split up into several sections, in this case three, called pitches. The lead climber builds the route and anchors as they go and then belays up the next person, who then belays up the third person. The last climber cleans the gear as they go, and then the process is repeated on all the pitches.
I would love to try and explain fully the sensation of hanging from the side of a giant rock by a harness and rope and being able to see for miles and miles and realizing how small and insignificant you are, in a good way, with people you love, but I don’t know if I could.
So heres a poem about it instead:
Sitting on top of a rock
Looking at a scene of beautiful change
And reflections on faces of the
face of God
is as beautiful as this
Somewhere along the line after I relaxed and stopped verbally berating myself for not being as good as everyone else and focused more on having fun climbing clicked for me. I wouldn’t call myself a phenomenal climber, or even a great climber, but I was successful, and not just in the sense that I put myself out of my comfort zone and tried. I was good at it, much to my surprise and excitement, and that was an incredible boost of self-confidence. Its absolutely true that you can have fun even without being good at something, which I had learned on the river, but being good at climbing added another element of it for me; unlike the river I would love to do this again. This also taught me not to give up on myself so easily, because even though it took a minute, the abilities I had showed up and the skills I was learning grew stronger.
This section was a time of immense growth and realization for me. Our teachings focused on different spiritual disciplines and how when we as individuals are disciplined enough to grow in the Lord the whole body is built up (Ephesians 4:7-16). This deeply impressed on me the importance of my study time not only for my sake but for the whole body of Christ. I learned to have heaps and piles of grace and patience for myself and others. I received peace about hurts and confusions I had had for a long time about being a female. I did something, several things actually, that I never thought I’d be able to. I saw a spark and determination in me that I had never before realized I had. I surprised myself, and it made me feel strong in a way I never had before.
This section has so many stories and memories: the bear that tried to steal our food, city and star gazing after the sun had gone down, fight club Friday on the bus, sunrises and sunsets, sitting late at the campfire after it had gone out, repelling, reading poetry aloud on Lunch Ledge, packing camp up in record time because we thought it was going to rain on us, going around the campfire and affirming our group, growing as a body, having everyone cheer for me as I took 18 tries to land the dyno.
I could write books about all those things and more, and maybe one day I will, but all of that was simply consolation to the overwhelming peace and joy I felt from learning and growing and being built up and accomplishing.
Rock climbing is this insane thing where you have to put your trust in gear and other people and just do it. Its hard and seems crazy and often make you wonder what on this green earth you’re doing. But its worth it, so so worth it. Because once you push through the fear or the doubt or the difficulties (or all three) you make it to the top of the route and your breath is taken away by the vast beauty of the world you can’t see when you stay on the ground.
Following Christ is a lot like that. Instead of trusting gear you have to trust the Lord. Its hard and on the surface doesn’t seem to make sense. You’ll have seasons of fear and doubt and seasons where it feels too hard, too tiring, too completely insane to carry on. But its worth it. Living for Christ, living in Christ, letting Christ live in you, is like making it to the top of the route and realizing that all the hardship and difficulties and pain brought you to somewhere beautiful. Its not easy, following Christ isn’t easy, but it takes you to a place you could never imagine or get to on your own.
Ephesians 4:1-6 is the best way for me to sum this time up:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.