A Rock Climbing Fable for the Ages

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to the rock climbing gym as per usual. We donned our gear, chalked up our hands, and hit the wall. There were a dozen or so new routes in the back corner of the gym, and after a warm up, we headed over to check them out.

If you aren’t familiar with climbing gyms, here’s a little primer on how it works. The easiest routes are rated 5.5. If you’re an adult, these get old quick. The holds are easy and close together. Ratings go up to about 5.14 or so (it gets more complicated than that but it’s all you need to know for now). At my gym, when a new route is set a scorecard is put out and climbers can rate it however they think fit. Eventually, someone takes all the ratings and narrows it down to one rating.

600_434194106A year or so into climbing, I can climb a 5.9 pretty reliably. Once in awhile I meet one that vexes me. I have climbed the occasional 5.10. But this weekend I found myself faced with something interesting. Instead of a bunch of scorecards on the new routes, they were simply marked with colored tape. There were absolutely no ratings to be seen.

We stood before the wall, assessing the new routes. You usually have some idea of whether or not something is within your wheelhouse. But I found myself looking at one route on a sharp corner with lots of tiny little holds thinking, “I can do that.” My boyfriend guessed it might be a 5.11. I decided to throw myself at it anyway.  Continue reading