Monday, July 18, 2011

If You Had A Super Power, What Would It Be?

I know plenty of people who would say they’d want to fly. But what’s so thrilling about that? The wind in your face? The view of the ground as it moves past your line of site? The ability to perform beyond-human acts? I mean, some creatures get to fly all the time and I can’t imagine and eagle preferring to walk. So why is it so special to us?

It just is. (I know, so profound!)

[Mom, you might want to skip the next two paragraphs… or this whole post.]

For those adrenaline junkies out there (ahem, I may fit that category), there is an ever-evolving list of sports and activities to achieve that unique buzz. You can climb up cliffs, jump off of bridges, throw yourself into rushing rivers, run off of hills, slide down mountains, or even dive from perfectly good airplanes. For as long as I can remember, I have loved the thrill of these adrenaline activities. I always wish roller coasters lasted 10 times longer than they do. I love the feeling of conquering a high ropes challenge. When pulling me behind the boat, my dad knows I love when he takes a nice sharp turn to whip me around; I can’t get enough of the intensified exhilaration of carving the glassy water with my ski. When I take a good fall while leading a rock climbing route, it’s not uncommon for me to squeal with delight on the way down. It’s in my nature. I can’t experience that stomach-dropping-feeling enough! And I’m not sure I can explain why it feels so good. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Belay On

One of the biggest responsibilities in climbing lies in the hands of the belayer. The belayer checks that the climber is tied in safely and ready to climb, operates the other end of the rope to help protect the climber, tells the climber if something appears unsafe, and of course catches the climber when they fall. The importance of belaying safely was drilled into me when I took a university level rock climbing course and I have found myself on the other end of the rope in numerous situations since. I am well aware of the level of concentration, safety-consciousness, and vigilance required in a belayer, and quite like the responsibility that comes along with it. It was no surprise to me, then, that I wound up belaying for the New Zealand National Climbing Competition when it came to Wanaka!

Photo credit: Nadine Cagney Photography

I had been yelled at for catching climbers too softly in the gym (letting them fall a bit further in order to absorb more of the shock and give them a more gentle landing when they reach the end of the rope) and because of that Loz, one of the guys who runs the local climbing gym, decided I would be a good competition belayer. Belaying for a competition can be a stressful job. Not only do you have to think about all the normal belayer’s responsibilities, but you have to be very cautious not to “short rope” a climber (which might interfere with their ability to climb), and you have to give them a more generous catch than normal when they fall (in order to make it clearly visible that they fell off and prevent them from getting back on to continue the climb). While doing all of this, the competition belayer also has to ignore the potentially large crowds watching the climber’s – and their own – performance.