Yesterday I went to a climbing gym with my co-workers for our summer staff party. It’s been at least five years since the last time I tried rock climbing, and over a decade since the last time I actually climbed a rockface.
The experience was interesting. On the one hand, the venue is great, and the staff were awesome. My co-workers were all super supportive, and in no way did I feel like I didn’t belong because of other people. I did, however, felt like I didn’t belong because I’m a 325lbs mass of meat that doesn’t have the greatest cardiovascular system and a nervous suspicion of gravity.
I made two attempts to climb a fairly easy 5.5 wall. The first attempt, I chickened out about a quarter of the way up. A little while later, I made a second attempt and got around 80% of the way up before I stopped, thought about things, and promptly started climbing back down. In other words, I psyched myself out before I reached the top.
I was really bummed out about it afterward, because I knew that if I pushed through the mental barrier and went up the last 5-10 feet, I could have made it. Instead, I saw that I still had a bit to go and felt that I didn’t trust the auto-belay device to support my weight, and the hand-holds near the top would have been tricky to climb back down on. So, instead I decided to turn back and climb down until I was a safe height up from the ground where I could let go and still not injure myself if the auto-belay device didn’t arrest me.
It’s really stupid to let myself succumb to this kind of thinking. I know that the equipment is safe, and I know that I won’t injure myself if I slip. Nevertheless, I let my fear get the best of me, and I turned back before the end.
We can’t win them all. I’ll try to do better next time.