Saturday, April 20, 2013

Am I supposed to have a bruise there?

I certainly pushed myself this week! Outdoor climbing on Sunday, climbing again Tuesday, a nice hike Wednesday, more climbing Friday, and today I topped it off with some tree climbing. Remember how much fun it was to climb up a tree? If you were like me, you would climb, look down, and start crying until dad came to get you down. I know I'm not alone in this. Well today I was able to go to the tippy top and not have to worry about falling!

The Fairfield climbing Meetup hosted this event at Tree Climb Connecticut. Our guides, Gary and Mike, host this course and help train professional landscapers and arborists to get their certification. We just took the adventure course which didn't go over all the knots and cut right to the fun part - climbing trees!
I'm glad I didn't have to do all of that
To say we climbed the tree would be misleading. We actually climbed the ropes which were hung in the tree.  A lot of the same principles as climbing are used, but it was still different enough to challenge us. There were several different ways to ascend/descend and we got to try them all. We all started off the hardest way, by having to pull up both a loop for our foot as well as the top knot. The idea was to slide up your foot loop so your knee was bent, then stand up while simultaneously sliding up the other knot. It took a LOT of effort and you only moved a few inches at a time. My arms were certainly exhausted by the time I got anywhere near the top! The next way was to use a device that pushes the knot up for you, so you only had to pull the rope down. I also decided to ditch the foot loop and do it the old fashioned way by locking the rope with my feet. I actually found that method to be very natural and was able to go up the rope much quicker. The final time involved a device that pulled the knot up as well as let you descend when you squeezed it. It seemed to make going up slightly easier, but was by far the easiest way down.

Of course we weren't going to put in all that effort of lugging ourselves up just to go right back down. Once we reached the top of our rope, each of us spent a good deal of time just hanging out enjoying the view. One of the ropes went quite high, 50 or 60 feet, and even though I was tied in much like I am while climbing, for some reason I felt less comfortable with it. Occasionally the wind would spin me so that I wasn't facing the tree, and that seemed to enhance the feeling. By seeing the tree right in front of me, I guess it made me feel more grounded.

Just chillin
It's a looooong way down!
There was a nice picnic table and Gary surprised us with burgers and dogs and sodas, which we happily ate after a few climbs. Well, except poor Despina who has to go vegan until Greek Easter. We spent as much time asking about their gear as they did ours. Gary was a character and made the day very enjoyable. We were also happy to learn that our fee for this course would be applied to the full class should we ever decide to take that. I know I plan on it!

I also learned (the hard way) that there's a big difference between climbing harnesses and tree harnesses. A climbing harness will support your weight but the leg straps are fairly small as you're not sitting in the harness for very long. Most of the time your weight is on the wall and you take occasional breaks. Today, my weight was entirely on the harness and I quickly felt the straps digging into my legs. I tried one of the tree harnesses and immediately noticed how much more support it offered. It was much more comfortable while in the tree and allowed for hanging around a lot longer. But the damage had been done. I have a pretty spectacular bruise on my thigh, as well as up and down my leg from the rope.

Once we were done, I took a trip the the nearby REI. I now have rope and webbing for my own top rope rigging. No more waiting around for everyone to use one rope when we go climbing! If I'm not too sore to get out of bed tomorrow, we're supposed to be climbing at Chatfield again. I have no idea how I'll manage to grip anything, but I'll give it the old college try!