I am not afraid of heights or falling for that matter. But rock climbing is both a physical & mental challenge. You have to be strong enough to hold yourself to the rockface and pull yourself up higher. Mentally you need to be calculating your next move and willing your body to trust your fingers and toes that are clinging to the holds.
I started my first climb ever (pictured here) with excitement and enthusiasm; it was only when I got about halfway up that I realized how difficult this sport really is. Seriously, the people I was climbing with made it look so easy...I thought "hey, I am in good shape, I will be able to just fly right on up to the top!" I was dead wrong.
My hands and legs were fatigued within a few minutes; muscles I didn't even know I had ached in misery. As my body seemed to begin to fail, so did my demeanor. I suddenly began to lose faith in my capability to make it to the top. Moreover, I began struggling to find the right holds to progress upwards. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the top of this climb, but once my feet hit the ground my gut was telling me not to go back up.
We moved from this route (a respectible 5-8 on the climbing scale) to a more difficult route (5-9) that required more arm strength than the previous. When it was my turn to make the climb, my arms & legs began to tremble. A little less than halfway up the face I hit a spot where I had difficulty making the reach. As I was trying to secure my hold and move upward, I lost my grip and fell. I did not find the falling to be scary or unsettling, but slowly as I kept trying to stick the hold (it was my only reachable option to move onwards) my stomach began tying into tight nots. Sharp quivers ran down my spine as I continued unsuccesfully to secure my position on the rockface; my body began a cold sweat. After falling about 5 more times, (each time I became more reluctant to restart) I suddenly burst inexplicably into tears. I had to get down, ASAP.
Once lowered to the ground, I had no words to explain the anxiety I felt to my worried friends. I had no rational explanation for how my body physically turned against me. All I could think was, "wow, that is what fear feels like," and that I did not want to go back up climbing, EVER. Although I had an uncomfortable experience, I enjoyed being out there and watching my friends tackle the wall with skill and expertise. I longed to be able to climb with such confidence and calmness as they seemed to exude. Only a few days later a few of my friends came and told me that what I felt physically is what they experience mentally in their heads as they climb.
Since that first trip, my friends have persisted on trying to get me back out there. I have continually declined the offer because I am too scared that I will breakdown again. However, this weekend, I finally agreed to take another stab at it...
I think I am going to be sick. Haha.