Rock Climbing in La Madre Wilderness

My first real rock climb!!! Marija brought me along with some climbing buddies she met on Meetup. Luckily, they were cool with me knowing next to nothing about climbing. Tom has been climbing for 30 years and has found & bolted a few different spots out in the wilderness. The one he took us to was the characteristic limestone of the area; sharp and angry with unconventional holds and fabulous traction. The easiest route he had was 5.7. Yikes. (5.7 is the high end of’easy’…link to climbing rating system)

the face of an eager learner

On my first try, I scrambled a third of the way up before getting stuck, getting scared & getting tired. The weird handhold options were freaking me out; I didn’t trust that sticking two fingers into a crack would hold me, or that my shoe smeared against a perfectly smooth section would stick. Rock climbing is not as instinctive as I thought it would be! They lowered me down, but told me I was going to have to make it to the top…they weren’t going to let me come out here and not finish even one route!

I'm stuck!!

For my second attempt, Tom stood below me and coached me on technique, weight-shifting, and different kinds of holds to use. He was an excellent teacher and literally walked me through every move, exactly the way I like to learn. I was so tired, my legs were shaking, but he wouldn’t let me down until I reached the top.

starting out with funky handholds early on try #2


using my knees to rest while I figure out my next move; this may be cheating, I'm not sure


cruising over the part that stuck me on my first try!


Marija rocks the last bit of the climb before reaching the top


look who made it to the top! (that's me!)

We set up ropes at two more climbs. While I was busy tackling the 5.7, Marija & Yannis took care of the 5.11 right next door. Tom pulled the rope from the 5.7 and set it up on the next climb, a 5.10b (5.10 is where climbing starts getting hard!). Since this was the easiest climb out here other than the 5.7 I’d already done, I figured I may as well give it a shot. I could see where the tricky spot was, the part where even the experienced climbers were having to stop and think about their lines. After that, it became overhanging. I figured if I could get up to the tough stuff, that would be good enough for me. With coaching & encouragement from Tom, Yannis & Marija, I heaved myself halfway up the climb. There were a few spots where I had to ‘hang out’ and reconsider my route, and I executed some sketchy moves…things I would have for sure not been able to do without the safety of the rope!

"visualizing my line" before starting the 5.10b


Yannis on the 5.10b; I made it to about where the top of the plants are

And just to brag a little bit…Tom said I had natural skill! He even said it once when I wasn’t supposed to hear it, so I know he wasn’t just being nice 😀


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