Saturday, July 31, 2010

Matt shows his mad rock-climbing skills, or something

Ever since I read a post in Bali What?, a now outdated blog by someone else with Friedreich's ataxia, I have wanted to go rock climbing.

She described her experience with a local adaptive sports group, and I thought: "I could do that."

That was more than a year ago. I looked up some local climbing centers and read about them, but I did not know any climbers or anything, so I just put it on the back-burner ... until I met J.

She mentioned she climbed, I told her I had always wanted to, and she decided we would.

Honestly, she kind of called my bluff. I did want to, but I did not really expect to. It really didn't kick in until Mom dropped me off at Earth Treks in the appropriately named Rockville.

I had e-mailed the woman in charge at Earth Treks, and she said it sounded as it I would be able to climb, so there we were last night: Me and Claren, J, and two of her climbing friends, K and T.

The staff was great. They put a harness around my waist and another around my shoulders, which no one else used, and then we were off to battle the only modestly inaccessible moment.

The climbing walls are all on big six-inch mats and there was no way up at first. So a few people just lifted my chair up. This was my power chair so that was heavy. On our exit, they just put up a sheet of wood to work as a ramp.

It is cool to be with people who don't worry about whether I can do something but instead just use common-sense methods to help me do my best.

Once on the mat, we went to a wall that was probably 20-30 feet high, strapped me to a belaying rope and sent me up. Well, more or less.

K climbed next to me and quickly realized she'd need to help my feet find and stay on the footholds. T belayed her. J belayed me, and I think she was working hard. The belaying rope holds you up so you don't fall much if you lose your grip. It can't pull you up, but J did everything but pull me up. Every inch I climbed she pulled the belaying rope tight so I never went back at all.

I looked down at one point and was surprised how high I was. I loved that Claren had wandered over and was lying right next to my chair waiting for me. I later told J how cool this was, and she immediately burst my bubble. Yeah, she said, she was lying there, "after making the rounds" of our climbing area.

When I looked down and saw how high I was, I was also surprised at how far I still had to go. I swear they have a hidden button that they push and make the wall like a million feet high.

But I finally made it! I tapped the tape marks at the top of the wall like climbers do and we started down, which was almost as hectic.

Normally, you lean back on the waist harness and walk down the wall as the belayer lets the rope out. I am not so hot with walking, so my legs kind of bumped down as I pushed off with a hand and K helped me. But we made it. Claren was glad to see me back at wheelchair level.

They lowered me right into the chair and I spent the next hour recovering, drinking water and watching them and a fourth zip up and down the wall. I figure it took me 30-45 minutes to get up and back.

Earth Treks closes at 10, so I started my second climb about 9:30. K had found what she thought would be a good wall for me to climb and so we did. I think this time I managed it in 20 minutes.

We had learned a few things from the first climb. She really braced my foot on the footholds. We also realized that I was more comfortable with a hip on the wall, rather than facing the wall. I am not sure why, but the result was we kept turning from the right hip to the left and back, whenever I ran out of handholds. The other result is some nasty rug burns on my knees from rubbing the wall through my jeans.

Afterward, I headed to the metro for a longish but pleasant ride home. I climbed a rock wall. I can't wait to go back!

P.S. I had just finished and checked my e-mail. J said she went back to the climbing center today and that I have a fan club of people who saw me and were impressed. WHOO!


Anonymous said...

You are awesome!!! FYI, that first climb only took about 20-25 mins and honestly that second climb was about 10. You rocked both of them!!! Next up....more climbing and....skydiving!!! Wooohoooo!!! ADB!

Anonymous said...

Very cool, Matt. You look good on the wall. See you soon.


Ellen said...

Really, really, awesome!

Patrick said...

So awesome. Congratulations! I'm intimidated just looking at the wall. But I love the pictures of you, Jaime, and everyone else who is not me climbing it!

Anonymous said...

pretty wild!

Matt Trott said...

I think all my helpers were the awesome ones but thanks all. Maybe I better concentrate on climbing because swimming is totally kicking my butt. I was supposed to swim on my own today and well there was some sinking involved. Oh and totally skydiving, too. Anything where I can inhale.

M.G.H. said...

Coming in late to the thread, but I'm so pumped for you!!! Congratulations! Since I now live vicariously through you, let me know when you're skydiving and I'll hug Claren as you soar down towards us! :)

Matt Trott said...

Ha! thanks. No one has ever lived vicariously through me. I hope you like to read.

marypat said...

Awesome Matt, you ROCK!

Matt Trott said...

It's a blast, Mary Pat. Thanks.

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