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The fight against gravity has never been so much fun.

Legs sprawling, fingers aching and adrenaline pumping. That pit-in-the-stomach feeling, the unknown strength, the pull, the drive, the anticipation.

It’s no wonder rock climbing has become one of the fastest-growing adventure sports.

Suddenly, suspended in the air, I relive a moment from my childhood.

My older sister, Monique, made me climb my grandmother’s roof and threw oranges to me. I told her I was worried that I would fall.

“It’s OK,” she said assuringly as she threw about a dozen more. “You won't fall. I promise.”

And then I missed one and tumbled to the ground, landing on my left knee.

Now, with a racing heart, I’m back on the mountain searching for an area to grab. There's none.

“I’m going to fall!”

From below I hear a voice, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”

Sure, just like last time.

My left hand holds on to the half-centimeter of jutting stone with all my might, while my other hand is wrapped in spider webs from a recent crevice. I remember that I should be keeping the majority of my weight on my legs.

Somehow, I lift my right leg into a crevice and I’m quickly sprawled out against a slab of rock that seems a little too smooth.

Great, now I’m really in trouble.

Again I scream how I’m ready to eat it, but my instructor, Travis Dunn, reassures me that I’m secure in all his ropes, belay devices and carabineers.

Yeah right.

“You’ve made it this far. You’re fine. You’ll be able to do it,” he hollers up to me.

So again, I start my ascent.

From above, our German climbing partner, Michael, points to little juts and bumps where I can put one foot or the other.

It’s like a game of vertical Twister.

It’s do or die time, so I make the move to get to a nub seemingly out of reach.

I’m right. It is out of reach, and I start scrambling.

And then I fall.

To my surprise I don’t thrash against the stones, my legs don’t get cuts and my head doesn’t get bashed in. I’m fine … just dangling there. Travis was right, he did have me as he holds onto the ropes that are suspending me in the air. So I get back on and try again.

This time, I find a point to grab on. I keep going up — almost frantically — and I take another spill.

“Maybe you should take a break. Get back on and just rest there a minute. Let your arms down and relax them,” Travis says, but I’m not hearing it.

I’m more than halfway there.

“My arms aren’t tired,” I call down. I’m determined to make it up there, and fast.

In my haste, the smell of dirt not only lingers too close to my face, but ends up in my mouth along with the spider web once wrapped around my fingers.

Screw it. I’m scaling up this rock face with bugs in my mouth if I have to.

Now, I’m moving up with gusto. I guess this is the adrenaline kick the guys were talking about earlier.

Michael chastises me for trying to grab onto one of the security hooks for leverage.

“You’re not climbing a rock, you’re climbing a hook.”

I move my hand to a less secure place.

Then it’s the same thing with my foot. The only thing I find to get farther up with my right leg is the beautiful, safe hook implanted in the rock face.

“Could I use it this time?”

“I won‘t tell anyone,” Travis says from below.

I’m so close to the top, and I’m still feeling the surge.

Then I make it.

Michael straps a safety rope to me as I climb onto higher ground. That’s when the wave of pain hits me.

I take a seat near the edge and start reeling. My high leaves immediately. I’m dazed, and I realize I worked my body so hard I could hardly breathe.

Michael keeps asking me to put some random strap on and take another off, but it’s far in the distance. I’m only thinking of breathing. He continues to tinker around my holster trying to get the straps he needs to rappel back down, but I’m oblivious.

It must have taken about five minutes before I could speak again, much less even think about heading back down.

In the end, after a sloppy trip down the rock face, I land on terra firma much dirtier than I started and with some scrapes and bruises to boot. But, I’m happier.

Unlike my childhood experience, unfortunately, there were no oranges to gobble up during the hike back to the car.


Stripes in 7



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