Monkey Boy.

As if risking my neck on minuscule, single-track roads through the Highlands for a week wasn’t enough to make me fully appreciate the beauty and fragility of life, I decided to face yet more mortal fears by joining some chums at an evening climbing expedition at the cavernous pit of doom otherwise known as the Ratho Adventure Centre.

It’s not the fear of heights that really gets me, but moreso the fear of landing, broken rope frays laughing at me as they unfurl, thirty to fifty feet below on the cold, stony ground. Logically I know it’s a safe thing to do, but I just can’t get the frantic, whispering voices out of my head that a converted rock quarry full of Britons would very much enjoy seeing a silly, crusty Yank fall to his death in a ‘freak’ climbing accident.

In fact, I’m quite sure they’ve planned it that way.

I’d been there before, but never allowed myself to entertain the possibility that gravity was something I needed to attempt to defy. The boulders in the middle were challenging enough, and at least there was a thick mat to land on. Hell, that hurts enough as it is!

But life is made for living, and if I can get socked in the nose by big, sweaty men, I can certainly clamber up a wall that doesn’t hit me back. Besides, facing fears (and mine is a SERIOUS one) makes us stronger, and more complete people, and my ass is getting big sitting in front of the computer all the time. So there you go.

Everyone *seemed* to be having a good time, and I didn’t hear any ear-splintering shrieks from plummeting patrons, so I figured “what the heck?” If I was gonna die, at least it would be in Scotland, amidst friends.

My hosts, gingiber and anonymousseth, were exceedingly patient with me, carefully removing my entrenched fingers from the granite walls and methodically explaining that I had nothing to worry about – if one falls, there’s no pain. Just death, quick and bloody. Thanks, guys!

To show me how it’s done they strapped themselves in and blasted up a pint-sized wall, which to me still seemed to burst through the roof of the centre, and possibly just touched the inner stratosphere. But they were smiling, so it couldn’t have been too bad an experience. Unless they were thinking about me crying from thirty feet up.

After seeing how easy it looked to my instructors/pals I felt the immediate rush of stupidity/challenge rushing through my veins and gave the green light to rope me in. Note the look of pure terror on my face as anonymousseth was giving me instructions. All I could hear was “break, snap, and fray”. And he never even said those words. The voices, I tell you…

I started off easy enough, on a wee wall with a pretty fair rating. I figured that as long as I didn’t look down or up, I’d be okay. Opening my eyes made it immensely easier. In actuality, as long as you’re concentrating on the grips and methods of scaling and body placement, it’s quite an excellent sport. Learning to trust the person belaying you also helps a great deal, and I made it up to the top on the first try.

Safely back down and quickly seeing the merits of this blood-rushing pastime, I eagerly accepted a move up to a larger, less-inclined wall and a more difficult route. Before long, I’d be climbing up massive skyscrapers! Suspension bridges! Everest!

But in reality, I didn’t get much higher than this, as my weedy little muscles soon paid the price from months without training at the gym. And much flesh was lost from finger-pads and palms, with or without chalk.

So I took a little break and snapped some shots of the very adept gingiber on a very long route spaced between two walls. That’s my next challenge, should I choose to accept it, but she made it look like cake. Very HIGH cake, waaaaay up in the air.

I also caught anonymousseth one hundred feet up, upside down, and with no rope! He’s inhuman! Okay, I’m lying. You can see the mat there at the bottom. But it’s still quite a feat, even two feet off the ground.

In the end, I completed an easy wall, nearly topped two 6a-rated walls, and did finish another 6a. Not bad for my first time, but I have much to learn, and I’m thinking about starting with the discipline of levitation. This concise and comparative rating system gives you an idea of what’s available. My biggest problem isn’t the physical aspect of climbing, gripping, or tiring out, but moreso really trusting the rope’s tensile strength and knotwork so I can more fully concentrate on getting up the wall. It takes some time, but the system is really strong and reliable, as was my belayer, so after a few more tries I should be more comfortable with the whole thing.

And before you know it, the Competition Wall will beckon!

*backs slowly away while you’re still gape-jawed and distracted*

24 Responses to “Monkey Boy.”

  1. vodkafrenzy Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:25 am

    Wow! That looks like loads of fun 🙂

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:37 am

    It is!
    It's also really bad for weak hearts!
    Of course, I'm not showing you the pictures of my crying and gripping the ground…

  3. spiffington Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:28 am

    Look at you!
    That was so cool, you're another human spider…
    We're all geting there, slowly but surely. We will be the master climbing race!
    I'm so proud of you cherub 🙂

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:39 am

    Master climbing race? Okay, Uncle Adolf!
    You wouldn't be so proud if you saw the puddles I made from the top of the wall…

  5. spiffington Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 10:06 am

    as for puddles, the best thing is to aim them well 😉

  6. seolta Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:31 am

    Wow! I'm impressed 🙂
    I need to get back to Alien Rock and work up my upper body strength before i venture to Ratho. I'm only a baby climber and still cheating with the odd differently coloured hold but last time i made a 6c without cheating… the old church just aint high enough tho 😀
    Cant wait to try abseiling from the top of the Ratho walls 🙂 and then real outdoor rock too!!!
    (Awesome tatt btw!!)

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 1:41 am

    There's some pretty good 'baby' walls and boulders at Ratho that you'd be fine with if you have previous climbing experience at Alien Rock, though I've never been there myself.
    Congrats on the 6c!
    (Awesome tatt btw!!)
    Thanks much!

  8. rachel_eurydice Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 2:04 am

    Oh, too cool. I wanna play.
    I understand being nervous…I'd be tweaking too.

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 8:06 am

    Come play! Come play!

  10. agntprovocateur Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 2:05 am

    wow, impressive place! I am even more impressed at you! though, I am glad you're in back down in one little huggable piece.
    my sister's husband is an avid climber. he's climbed el capitan and a frozen waterfall! there are photos to prove it too. the climb up el capitan (yosemite) required that he spend the night suspended. that's more brawn than i can muster….. ever!

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 8:09 am

    Next time it will be lots o' little, hug-able pieces!
    Outdoor climbing is even crazier yet – especially on the ice. Though the nifty axes are quite cool…

  12. agntprovocateur Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    he's a special kind of boring/crazy guy! stays home mostly , but when he goes out he likes the wilderness and climbing treacherous places. my sister will do some of that stuff though she'd rather go shopping and do city girl stuff. every so often they take their kayaks on the bay. heh

  13. agntprovocateur Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 2:06 am

    btw, that competition wall looks like something straightout of the movie Tron. lol

  14. scotis_man Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 4:31 am

    Could be fun …
    Ya know, I used to do that sort of thing at the Rocknasium in Davis … and Amy has done some climbing as well (but hers was outdoors type of thing) … Could be an excuse for you and us to get together when you get back … 😀

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 8:10 am

    Re: Could be fun …
    Since when have we needed an excuse? 🙂
    You bet. I'm up for it, if you promise not to let me die.

  16. velvetdahlia Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 4:51 am

    Aieeee! That place is so scary looking. I'm impressed, though part of me is convinced you've constructed this scale model out of painted boxes glued with Fruity Pebbles, and just photoshopped yourself into it.
    Just kidding! You're brave. That's a great shot of your tatt, too (hahah, I crack myself up sometimes.)

  17. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 8:08 am

    Yes, darling. You crack me up, as well. 🙂
    Fruity Pebbles? Damn good idea. Would have been less work than prying me off the floor…

  18. kratkrat Says:
    April 8th, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, that looks like a BLAST!!! I'm jealous… I do not have the upper-body strength to pull my fat carcass up a wall like that (most of my strength comes from these tree trunks I call my legs). It definitely looks like fun, though.
    Glad you had a good time, and glad that gingiber and anonymousseth not only showed you something fun… but that they took care of my favorite Darren, too!

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 8:13 am

    Oh man, those guys have addicted me to more things this year. Not sure if they're friends or pushers!
    I think that you *could* do it, Jer – and that you'd be good at it if you tried. I couldn't belay you, though…I'd be shot to the moon! 🙂
    Since it's just as much in the legs, I know you'd be fine.

  20. kratkrat Says:
    April 9th, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    I couldn't belay you, though…I'd be shot to the moon!
    Now THERE'S a visual!
    (Glad I was not drinking soda just now… I'd have shot it through my nose.)

  21. seide Says:
    April 10th, 2004 at 3:43 am

    Oh, I FEEL you on the fear of heights thing, believe me. It comes and goes in intensity. There have been times when I can do a bit of edgy hiking and rock-scrambling, but right now it's so bad that the most I am capable of is sitting on a second-floor balcony and gripping the fancy ironwork railing while downing an extra-large daiquiri. The first time I went skiing and had to ride on the open lift, all I could hear in my head was the "danger" music from Johnny Quest, violins shrieking over and over in my head. It's so freakin debilitating.
    You rock (hahaha I'm CORNY!) to have confronted your fears like this. I really admire ya for it! In addition to your other admirable qualities, you've now become inspirational as well!
    BTW, nice knotwork on the arms. I've had the center medallion from the carpet page of the Book of Durrow on my left shoulder for about eleven years now; hoping to have it redone and spiffed up for my birthday next month if the finances co-operate.

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 11th, 2004 at 8:39 pm

    Hey – maybe we could figure out a way to make climbing/drinking into a sport. Just think – one hand on the libation, one on he wall…extra points for shots, loss of points for heaving, extra points for hitting your belayer, disqualification but martyrdom when they let go of the rope…
    I greatly appreciate your comments about this being inspirational for you, but I must remind you that I was, in fact, a quivering idiot for most of it, and it only looks cool in retrospect. 😉
    Got any pics of your Durrow page?

  23. Anonymous Says:
    April 10th, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    Is there a pub at the top??
    Hey, you multi-talented athlete you! I'm *so* impressed — I didn't know you were acrophobic; I am too, and I once used a free coupon to go to a place in Emeryville with the same type of climbing, so I *know* what you went through!! You got *way* higher than I did, though — plus you sound like you're ready to keep doing it. Brave, brave Sir Robin! Just don't start doing tattoos in those day-glo colors, OK? 🙂

  24. FunkyPlaid Says:
    April 11th, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    Re: Is there a pub at the top??
    There *is* a pub at the top, but not at the top of the walls. And damn, do they have nice tea and pancakes. But I think it's really the notion that "Wow, I'm still alive and able to enjoy this tasty treat" and that's why they're doing so well up there. 🙂
    Not feeling like much of an athlete these days; Scotland's cold is baaaad for me joints. When I come back to California, I'm sure I'm going to melt.

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