Rising Popularity Of Bouldering
Indoor bouldering – rock climbing without ropes and harnesses – is all the rage right now in Austin, Texas. It seems like my friends are getting Austin Bouldering Project (ABP) gym memberships left and right. My social media feeds are saturated with similar videos of people climbing (and my thought process is usually “Woah, I didn’t realize that person had that level of upper body strength. Impressive.”). Several of my co-workers hit up the gym before or after work.
But the bouldering bug just never hit me. When I visited ABP for the first time with coworkers during a lunch break a few months ago, I left the place feeling glad that I had tagged along, but not convinced I enjoyed it enough to go back or invest in a membership. I’m not trying to rain on the parade of bouldering’s popularity; I understand the appeal of accessibility of an activity that requires little to no gear.
Indoor Bouldering Not For You? Try Outdoor Rock Climbing
On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to go top-rope climbing outdoors. When Levi, one of our buyers, announced that a Petzl representative named Conner had just moved to Austin from Utah in his big ol’ white van and was willing to take some people out to Reimers Ranch, a local spot frequent by climbers, and show them the ropes (wink wink), I was 110 percent on board with the idea.
The five of us, rep included, planned for a Friday morning. (Note: I am not a morning person. Maybe one day). But knowing that I was setting out to try something I’d never tried before instead of heading into the office got me out of bed and motivated me to make the hour-long drive to our meeting destination.
Conner had harnesses and climbing shoes ready to go for us, and we took a beautiful walk (in technical terms, this is called an “approach”) through a mini canyon as he set up the rope at the top of the rock wall.
Before The Climb
Once we had all convened at the base of the rock, I learned that guides new to a climbing area can use a visual book to recognize the varying difficulties of different routes. Ohhh, so that’s how Conner knew to anchor at that specific spot. Noted. Once climbers began joining us in the area, I noticed most of them had that same book!
Before we could jump into climbing, Conner taught us how to tie an figure 8 knot. I liked his hands-off approach; after the first time, he would verbally go through the steps, but he wouldn’t touch the knot itself. It’s honestly not that difficult… but it did take me a few tries, and maybe some adrenaline to lift me out of my morning drowsiness.
Rock is way, way different than indoor bouldering, and we all learned that from the first grab. Both types of climbing makes your fingers, forearms and shoulders sore, but real rock is hard on the skin itself.
I’m going to get poetic and say that your first time rock climbing is like life itself. You don’t know where you’re going, you’re frantically struggling to get a grip… But when you’re most exhausted, you find that perfect foot or handhold to position yourself on. And then you stumble and lose some of the progress you made. But eventually, you make it to the top. Or at least to a ledge you can stop to catch a breath.
During each single exhausted pause, the same thought passed through my mind: “There’s no way I’m nudging another step.” But somehow, with verbal encouragement, some rest, and careful consideration of where I was placing my feet so that I was distributing weight to my legs to free my arms, I managed to make it to the top on each climb up. We had accidentally started out on a more advanced route, and moved the rope to routes easier and easier in difficulty, which made for a nice transition in the early afternoon.
Your first time rock climbing is like life itself. You don’t know where you’re going, you’re frantically struggling to get a grip… But when you’re most exhausted, you find that perfect foot or handhold to position yourself on. And then you stumble and lose some of the progress you made. But eventually, you make it to the top. Or at least to a ledge you can stop to catch a breath.Larisa Manescu
So You Wanna Climb?
I left the park feeling physically exhausted but mentally refreshed, grateful for the opportunity to delve into an activity I’d been eyeing for a while. My biggest take-away: If you’re interested in outdoor rock climbing, scout out a local rocking climbing group, a beginner class with a local guide service (Texas Climbing Adventures is a good option for the Austin area), or even just a good friend that has the gear and is willing to invest the time to show you the ropes.
And if you end up getting hooked, we’ve got the climbing gear to outfit your climbing adventures.