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Learning the Ropes

Part 1

It was on a mid-September night in 2015 when my husband Tim told me about a conversation he had with our friend Mack earlier that day.

“So Mack stopped by my office and told me about this climbing gym he heard about that’s here in Norman. He asked if we would like to go. Do you want to?”

This conversation with my husband was the start of a passion I didn’t think I could have with a sport.

“Hell yes! When does he want to go?” I asked.

“Sunday morning, he said.”

Yuk. Not looking forward to having to get up that particular morning. “Sure, I guess.” I said reluctantly.

Climbing Day

Outside shot of Climb Up Gym building

Sunday morning came and we carpooled with Mack and another friend, Greg to the Climb UP climbing gym. My first thought when we pull into the parking lot was how small the building looked. We walk in and are greeted by Cruz, one of the employees at the front desk. We introduce ourselves and say we were interested in trying out climbing. However, before we could climb, we're asked to fill out a wavier for liability insurance purposes.

After the paperwork is done, we're told as newcomers we are to take a belay course from the instructors before climbing in the gym. So we needed to rent harnesses and shoes.

I’ve never put on a harness on before so this was new to me. We’re told to put them on like a pair of pants. Feet first into the waist belt, through the leg loops, pull up and tighten. The waist belt is tightened first. The belt ends need to touch in-front of you. Once that’s secured, the leg loops are tightened on the thighs. Not so tight that you can’t walk around. It feels a little weird at first but after a while, it isn’t too bad.

Next are the shoes. Climbing shoes are specialty shoes just like soccer cleats or ballet slippers. Cruz mentions that when trying climbing shoes on for the first time, they should be a little tight. The less friction from the foot on the shoe, the better while climbing. For these shoes, it’s likely we will need a half-size or a whole size smaller than we usually wear. For instance, I wear a size 6 1/2 or 7, depending on the shoe. After testing a few pairs, a size 6 fit me the best.

Into the Great Indoor Gym

After gearing up, it was time to start our belay lesson. We walk with Cruz into the gym and surprisingly the room was a lot bigger than I expected. Tall grey walls are covered with various shapes and sizes of different colored holds. Thick grey mats lie at the bases of them. Belay and auto-belay ropes tied and set up parallel to the walls.

Inside the Climb Up gym

We first walk around the room with Cruz as he points out the different features of the walls and their purpose. Mainly where we could belay, auto-belay, and lead climb. In the middle of the gym is a large artificial boulder speckled also with various colored holds. The boulder is for of course bouldering. We stop near a pair of belay setups and see where the real fun begins.

Going Up

This is where part 1 of Learning the Ropes ends. Coming soon is part 2 where you’ll get to see how the belay course went. Plus, my first time on the walls and bouldering. As I test the ropes I come to realize how much fun these activities really are.