Last weekend I made a visit to Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo and spent the day rock climbing the bluffs with a group of people I met through meet up. Meet up essentially brings together people who enjoy doing similar activities and are looking to expand their social networks. I had limited experience with the site when I was living in Columbia but I joined the Madison Outdoors group and have been averaging one a week since moving here. I jumped at this particular opportunity because while I’ve bouldered and climbed at indoor gyms before I’ve actually never had the chance to try it on natural rock formations. Plus, it fit in well with my county-by-county project!
A girl with a “say yes to anything’ mentality, I was the first to volunteer to climb. Although I struggled through many of the sections, I managed to hang on through the worst of it. So many times I felt like my grip would fail me and I’d fall. My fingertips were plastered inside tiny crevices and my legs were wide, the weight of my body on the tips of my toes. At times my body would freeze. If I were to release my fingers from those tiny crevices, I wouldn’t have anything to hang on to. But it’s a sport which requires you to give in to yourself and to trust your movements. To lean in to your feet, release the weight in your arms, to reach out and to push up. This was the struggle I faced during the moments I started to climb – learning to let go and give in.
In many ways, I feel like I fought myself on the face of those rocks. I was exploring a new emotional terrain. In some places I felt strong while in others I felt weak and tattered and beat up. I slammed into the side of the rocks when I slipped, bruised and scratched up my legs, and in places where my grip slipped, the skin on my knuckles were rubbed raw. It pissed me off royally and it’s what kept me coming back for more.
When I finally conquered a difficult course and managed to make my way to the top of the bluffs, I felt simultaneously depleted and accomplished. Heart beating fast, hair plastered to my sweaty face, body quivering from pure exhaustion the only words I could muster were, “Fucking shit that was hard”. It was awful and beautiful and fun and hellacious all at the same time.
At the top of the bluffs I took a few moments to catch my breath. I sat there in the harness, limbs hanging loose, looking out over the tree tops and through to the water. It was majestic. The chatter of my thoughts had finally subdued. It was then I realized I made it an entire three hours without thinking of anything but me and that damn rock. It was bliss and a reminder to not be too hard on myself – to trust my heart and focus on the journey.