I’m clinging to the top of a climbing wall at Fergs on the waterfront. My arms seem to have locked into place – which is a good thing, because I’m tired, and from my last estimate I’m roughly 10,000 meters from the ground.
“Lean back!” Louise is yelling. She’s been saying that for some time now.
She’s easy to ignore all the way up here.
I don’t want to let go of the wall. Perhaps I could climb back down, like spiderman in reverse? I go down half a step, and Louise yells at me again.
Finally I manage to relax my hands and sit back onto the harness. Not too far back, mind, but I’m not clinging to the wall anymore. I’m clinging to the rope.
Louise lowers me and my stomach takes a little longer than everything else to hit the ground.
“That was scary.” I say shaking out my hands.
Louise looks at me like I’m an idiot. “You’re on a rope. I’m not going to drop you.”
“Yeah But I’m scared of heights, and it’s scary leaning back.”
Louise clearly doesn’t get it.
For her the fun bit is whizzing back down to the ground. For me it’s looping the knot before I climb, and the climb itself. My climbs are always slow. I like to think about where my hands and feet are going, and I like to be sure that I’m not going to slip and plunge to the AstroTurf below my feet.
Louise hooks herself onto the ropes, and almost before I’m ready she flings herself up the wall that I just climbed. She gets up it in less time than I did, and casually lets go of the wall, leaning back into her harness with no issues.
I shake my head in wonder. I want to ask ‘What if you fall Louise!?”. I don’t yell out though – I know it will be counterproductive to getting her back onto the ground. Also it would be a really shitty thing for a belayer to say to a friend.
My turn again, and I jump up onto the wall. Two meters up the fear settles itself over my shoulders like a blanket. I shrug it off casually, and stretch to reach my next hold.
As long as I’m going up I’ll be fine.