I could feel my hands wanting to get sweaty. I reached back, first dipping my right hand in my chalk bag, followed by my left. I was three quarters into this pitch, approaching a gnarly overhang. I could feel the blood pumping in my forearms, they wanted to give up, but I kept telling myself “almost there, don’t stop now”. I had my right toe on a crimp the size of a water bottle cap, not to mention my left leg flagging—where your foot is just on the wall to keep your balance, not to support your weight. My right hand was holding on to a nice jug—a really good hold big enough to grab with both hands—trying to reach my left hand further up passed the over-hang. I needed to get passed this over-hang to clip into the next the next carabiner, my last clip in was 5 feet down. Carabiner is a clip; this one is attached to the face of the wall. I reached up with my left hand, feeling around, trying to find my next hold. It took me a second to find the next hold, when I finally place my fingers into the next hold, I put pressure to reassure myself it would hold me. After finding that hold my body went into autopilot, naturally my legs moved first, left leg up then right leg followed. Though when it came to my right hand, I was not as cool, calm or collected. I felt around as much as I could, but for the life of me I could not find another hold. I started to panic. My heart was pounding. My stomach, sinking. I yelled down to my boyfriend, who was also my belayer—the person attached to the end of my rope, making sure I don’t fall and plummet to my death— “I’m stuck! I don’t know where to move to next”. I know he said something to me, but I couldn’t hear him over the sound of my breath and racing heart. With every second that passed me by I could feel my arms wanting to give up. I knew if I didn’t make a move fast, I would not be able to keep holding on. I scanned the rock and found a crimp with just enough room for three fingers, not my favorite hold. I had finally started to move up, when all of a sudden, BAM! My hand slipped which caused me to completely lose my balance. I tried to stay on the wall, but I knew then it was a wrap for me. I fell down the five or six feet down to the last carabiner I clipped into, also the few extra feet of slack I had in the rope, slamming into the wall. Without delay my adrenaline started flowing through my body. My boyfriend quickly belayed me down, “are you okay?!”. I could hear the panic in his voice. “Yeah, I’m okay. My shoulder just hurts a little.” My voice was shaky, I could barely get the words out. Looking down, I noticed that my hands were shaking as well.
That definitely was not the first time I fell while climbing; although, that was my first fall outdoors. My first fall was at the indoor climbing gym, Hangar 18, in riverside. I was always so excited to try a new climb; I had been going to the gym four to five times a week. Each time meeting new people, most of them experienced climbers, climbing for more than three years. It was like a whole new world to me; everyone was so encouraging and helpful. Whenever I would tell people that I had just started climbing, but was already climbing 5.10+ they would say “wow, really? Well you’re doing a great job”, or “you’re a natural”, or “you were born to do this, ha-ha”. It honestly made my head really big; I wasn’t “scared” of a climb. That is, until I fell. Going up the wall, always made adrenaline rush, I was starting to get addicted to it.
One day I went into the climbing gym ready to make a 5.11+ my bitch. I had seen it on the wall multiple times, but I would always say “next time”. The climb started with me having to be horizontal, and then straight into an overhang with the only hold being a choke hold. It was definitely the most technical climb I had attempted. Passed the first overhang was very technical, but they were good crimps/holds. I was approaching the second overhang, the wall met at a 90 degree which meant I need extra slack on the rope. There were a couple holds I could wrap my hand around; they were very comforting. The only problem: I didn’t have a good place for my feet. There was a good hold on the underside of the overhang, and there was another one on passed it. I had two options; I could use all my upper body strength to get passed the overhang or I could heel hook my left foot on the overhang and that would help me get up. I knew my upper body strength was not getting me up the wall, so I opted for the heel hook. I had my right hand on the hold under the overhang, my left hand was on the hold passed it, my right leg was on the wall—not any hold just hoping the friction is enough to hold me up. I was getting anxious being up there, my move was fast and sloppy, I kicked my left leg up over the hold and slammed it straight down. My right leg was no longer long enough to stay on the wall, my plan was to match on the hold passed the hang and put my right foot in the hold that my right hand was on and make my way up. Instead when I tried to match on the top hold, I fell. It all happened too fast for my mind to process it, I fell straight down, but it wasn’t until I felt the jerking of the rope keeping me from falling further down that snapped me back into time. I didn’t understand how I fell, one second I was holding on and the next I was hanging in midair. I was terrified when I got back to the floor my hands were so shaky, my boyfriend said I looked pale. I almost didn’t want to climb anymore, because I didn’t know how it was, I fell. For a couple days I couldn’t get passed a certain point on the wall, anytime I went, I would just belay my boyfriend while he climbed.
It wasn’t until I saw a petite girl lead climbing a mean wall, she moved so gracefully, the way she moved made me want to get back on the wall, but I was afraid of falling again. It took a lot of courage, and some inspiring words from a few different climbers, to attempt to climb again. I started slowly and started practicing falling. There were countless visits to the gym where I would start a climb and midway, I would practice falling. That was the first step to bigger falls. Falling is still scary, epically outdoors. Now I know falling can only make me a better climbing, because without attempting to make a move I’ll never send a climb.