If you’ve been following along on my last few posts, you know that Alex and I agreed to gift one another experiences this last Christmas. In my last post, you can read all about Al’s experience to me: an evening blending wine at The Blending Lab. For my gift to Al, I knew right away what I was going to gift him: rock climbing classes. He’d only been talking about taking one for the last year and half, after all!
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the store, REI. But if you’re not, it’s basically the Mecca of Outdoor Activity stores. They have everything you could think of in terms of hiking and camping gear, they sell coolers and compasses, park maps and dog vests, you name it (!), and they are my one-stop-shop for anything involving my bike. Sometimes it’s a little dangerous that we have one so close to us 😉
If you don’t have a store near you, you can check out their website to get a better idea of what they sell. But it isn’t just all about buying their items, it offers visitors a “Get Outside” search engine bar, where you can look up nearby places to hike or camp. And perhaps, my favorite thing they offer to their customers: classes and adventures.
You can book big trips all over the world with REI groups where you’ll mountain bike and kayak and make your way through various countries, or you can book small classes that last a couple of hours on the weekends or after work! And they offer something for pretty much anyone! They have classes to teach you how to properly pack a backpack, mountaineering excursions, how to ride a bike, how to kayak or stand up paddle board, how to cook over a campfire, and yes … how to rock climb 😉 If you’re looking for a great gift for someone, or a fun date night, I highly recommend checking out their Classes page…I’m pretty positive you could find something for anyone 😉
I signed Al and I up for the Introduction to Outdoor Rock Climbing – Level 1 class at Stoney Point Park — about a 40 minute drive north for us — on a Sunday morning in January. He.was.stoked.
Our class consisted of seven people and two instructors, and REI provides all of the gear that you would need. A couple of people brought their own shoes or harnesses because they were making the jump from indoor climbing to outdoor climbing. We started out with all of the safety basics — how to properly tie knots and make sure your gear is all on properly, and then suddenly we were learning the proper technique to belaying, which is how you (the person on the ground) can properly apply tension to the rope so that your partner (the person on the rock) doesn’t fall far if they have a misstep. Belaying is still technically a method of “free climbing” because you’re using only your hands and feet to progress up the rock. The rope is only there for safety reasons … and to come down 😉
^^they had Al go up the first easy route with shoes on his hands!! to demonstrate that climbing is all about your feet … it’s not about pulling yourself up with your hands at all!^^
After a quick up-and-down on an easy rock face, our group quickly progressed onto three harder routes that were lined up next to each other. With some great instructors, we were all able to make it to the top of 3 of the 4 routes, and one person made it a little past halfway on the 4th, hardest route! We had a blast. There is just something about being outside in nature in the crisp, early morning air that gives me goosebumps (the good kind)! It was also cool to take this class in such a popular climbing area because we met some other more experienced climbers, and got to watch some bouldering classes going on as well. When our five hours were up, we were tired but we were hooked! I think Al is already looking at Anchoring Classes — in which he’ll learn how to properly secure the rope at the top … obviously a very important skill to have 😉 There’s also something to be said about taking one of these classes with your partner — a sort of metaphor to life I guess — you can tackle many of life’s mountains on your own, but without your partner on the other end — acting as your anchor when things get tough — you’ll fall a lot harder. It’s okay to lean on people sometimes; you don’t have to go about everything on your own.
I can already picture us spending a day out in Joshua Tree with the tent set up, a cooler of beer set out, and Marty plopped out in a ray of sun, while Al and I belay one another up a rock face, ensuring that the other never falls too far…