It's the climb

In all my years of referencing song titles and lyrics in the titles of my posts, I never thought I would – nor had a desire to – reference a Miley Cyrus song. But here it goes.

I’ve just finished yet another graduate paper. My professor titled the assignment “Major Thread,” as opposed to our other assignments, which are usually just titled, “Thread.” This was a doozy, worth 100 points, as opposed to our less consuming 20-point or 50-point papers. It required reading 58 pages in a diversity textbook – of which I’m not fond, not because of the content but because I don’t like the way it’s written and presented – and then connecting the text to one of 20 or so topics that were proposed by the professor and dealt with oppression – referencing other texts and materials in the process. I tackled the U.S. Abolitionist Movement of the 19th century.

Last night, I worked on the paper in my office from about 6 p.m. until the early morning hours. It’s becoming so routine for me to spend late hours in my office on Tuesday and Wednesdays working on graduate papers that I’m becoming friends with the custodians. Last night they offered me some of their coffee. … Too bad I hate coffee.

As it usually goes, there comes a point when my brain hits a wall and I can’t work any longer. So I packed up and headed home, where I slipped into bed at exactly 2 a.m. … But then I was so riled up that I couldn’t sleep. And about a half hour later, Phoebe was at the bedside, muttering that she couldn’t sleep. I got up and escorted her to bed, but the scene played out about a half-dozen more times, with Kates and I trading attempts at taking Phoebe back to her bed and consoling her through whatever was frightening her.

For the last couple weeks, Faye has been the one keeping us awake at night as she’s been dealing with an ear infection and coughing fits. Last night was the first time in weeks that Faye slept through most of the night. Instead, Phoebe gave Kates and I the restless night, frustrating us to the point that we woke up this morning and one battered look at each other said it all. “O.M.G.,” Kates said.

So far tonight has been a little better, although I’ve yet to hit the bed, so things could change. I participated in my last ropes facilitation course of the semester, grabbed my weekly slice of pizza from the university food court and then headed to my office to finish this week’s “Major Thread.” (Insert the dramatic music … ) … I felt really good about the way I left it last night, and once I got to it tonight, I hit a stride. The ideas and words flowed, and I pumped out the concluding paragraph around 11 p.m. I uploaded it to the course website. And done.

But after two marathon nights of writing that paper and climbing walls at this evening’s ropes course, I have almost no feeling in my fingers and wrists.

* * *

So yeah, I took a ropes facilitation course this fall. It was an elective for my graduate studies. And it was one of the best, most fun course I’ve taken.

Every Wednesday afternoon, a couple of my classmates and I drove out to the university’s recreation area a few miles outside of town. We strapped on harnesses and helmets, tied on ropes and climbed until the sun set.

The first two weeks of the course were focused on learning the equipment, the knots used for setting up the ropes and climbing and then climbing the alpine tower – a 40-foot, tee-pee-like structure of telephone poles, with platforms at varied heights and ladders and poles hanging in mid-air.

Now, I’m not a rock climber. And all my ropes course experiences are on low-ropes courses. But looking up at the thing from the ground I thought, “I can do this. No problem.” Then, I started climbing that first climb and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”

More than anything, it sure raises my amazement of this guy to another level.

I gained more confidence with each step I took. And it was an awesome workout. I’ve enjoyed it so much I’m sad the class is over. Wednesday nights will never be the same.

We did team climbs – where multiple climbers were tied to one another and we had to work together to climb to the top of the tower. We navigated the Odyssey (photo below) – which I think is best described as an entire low ropes course within one apparatus, which is about the size of a football field and suspended about 30 feet in the air.

One of the more fun – and stomach-churning – activities we did was last week’s ripcord element. One by one, we were attached to a rope and hoisted by a cable 30-40 feet in the air. Doing the hoisting was our class, running the rope from its anchor like a pack of huskies; it was a pretty amusing process, actually. Then, when the – for lack of a better word – victim was ready, he or she pulled the pin on the cable and went flying. Swinging furiously through the air like a clock pendulum gone berserk. Needless to say, our class got quite a few laughs watching – and hearing – each of classmates reaction at the moment they pulled the pin and lost all control.

Because I was in no hurry to try the ride myself, I ended up going last. Nervous as I’ve ever been in my life, I sucked it up and pulled the pin. After screaming and flapping my legs wildly during the first two passes, I gained my composure and enjoyed the rest of the ride. Once my feet had returned to the ground, I said, “Yeah, I’d do that again.”

Still, my favorite element of all was the climbing wall, which we tackled during Week 3 of the class and returned to for tonight’s final class. The wall stands about 40 feet high and features multiple sides – or trails, as they’re known – with varied difficulties. Some of the trails went straight up and some tool the climber up and over angled walls. Some of the climbing rocks were easy to grip, some were not. Some were close together, others required quite a stretch. It was while climbing this element that we latched on to the mantra, “Just go for it.” Because that was pretty much what you had to do to have any success – no matter how far away that next rock, you had to stretch and sort of leap for it.

During my first try on the wall a few weeks ago, I completed three climbs – it was my most productive night of the entire course. I completely an easy trail first, climbing all the way to the top of the tower. Then I went for one of the angled trails, but only made it about halfway before my body gave out and I could go no further. … Once I was back on the ground, though, I decided I wasn’t done and went back up on another straight trail – which was arguably the hardest trail of the tower because the grips were so small and spread out. I climbed about two-thirds of the tower before I couldn’t go any further.
Here's a couple shots of me climbing those trails ...

After that experience, I badly wanted another chance to complete those two trails. We went back to the tower tonight and I wasted no time getting hooked up and starting my climb. But they beat me again … My fingers and wrists tensed up, and I didn’t have the strength to go any further than I did during my first attempts.

My hands are sweating now just thinking about it.

No comments: