Rockwall Climbing – Toronto, ON

As I continue along this adventure, every episode has required some degree of a gut check. Whether I was lost in the forest, stuck upside down in white water, or even just reflecting back to childhood fears as I walk into a group of strangers and ask “Hey, can I play?”, there’s always something to be overcome.

Rockwall climbing gave me yet another chance to test my boundaries. I’ve always been okay with heights, but only if I am close to the ground. When I started climbing the walls, I noticed a direct correlation between the speed at which I moved up the wall and my distance from the floor – higher meant slower.

This journey started when my friend Natalie rang us up and asked if we wanted to come meet her at a climbing gym. Unbeknownst to me, Natalie had become quite the stellar rock climber over the last few years as she travelled to many a far off and exotic locale. I was impressed.

My expectation going into rock climbing, which I had done minimally many years ago, was that it was basically a series of chin-ups and stair-climbing manoeuvers that required strong fingers. As is often the case, hypothesizing about something and actually doing it can leave you with drastically different conclusions.

Depending on the pace you set for yourself, rockwall climbing doesn’t have to be all that taxing of a sport. Your fingers might fatigue a bit, but if you keep it slow, there’s almost no need to break a sweat. Conversely, if you choose to attack the wall, you can burn off all those power sauce bars pretty quickly.

Regardless of the aggressiveness you bring into it, it becomes a very tactical sport – “hug the wall!”, “ climb with your legs!”, “hook your thumb over the tiny grips!” – all things you’ll hear from down below if you’re blessed with the good impromptu coaching we had (many thanks). Actually those three pieces of advice made all the difference.

In most climbing gyms you’ll also find an area of wall called the bouldering cave, which looks like someone opened a box of giant rainbow nerds – like, the candy –  and tossed them all over the wall. There are just a ton of holds in a very condensed area. Bouldering is a variation on rockwall climbing where you’re only a few feet off the ground, so ropes are unnecessary – perfect when you’ve just made your friend’s friend belay for you all day and you don’t want to pester him any more. The idea here is to follow a very specific, short course, which will require some serious strength and agility to conquer.

When you head out to visit a climbing gym, and you will, you’ll notice each wall will be rated to a certain difficulty. For some reason that no one can explain the scale goes from 5.0 to 5.13 – there doesn’t seem to be any significance to the “5” being in front. The hardest I was able to scale was a 5.7, but don’t worry 5.8, I’ll be back for you.

P.S – Thanks for the shirt Karen.