On November 4 of this year, Emily Harrington became the fourth woman to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. She scaled the massive 3,000-foot granite face in less than twenty-four hours. Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber uses climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist in the ascent.
Just thinking about a 3,000 foot rock face gives me the shivers. If there ever was an activity that was not compatible to me, it would be rock climbing.
I have an aversion to heights. I discovered this when I was in high school and we were covering meteorology. There was a weather box on the roof and the class exercise was to take readings from the instruments.
I remember climbing up to the roof on a solid iron ladder rivetted to the wall, with two great big handlebars looping over the edge of the flatbed roof. I recall having no problem at all going up. Coming down was the issue. Eventually, after all my classmates had descended (I graciously allowed them to go first) I gripped those handlebars, turned around, closed my eyes and slowly, slowly descended down the ladder.
It’s ironic that a few years later my (then) boyfriend took me rock-climbing at Rattlesnake Point on the Niagara Escarpment. I don’t think I actually knew what it was beforehand. I was enticed by a nice day out and the promise of BBQ chicken wings after.
The starting point for rock climbing is at the base of a rock face. Luckily for me, there was an easy trail to walk down. The next stage is climbing up by levering fingers and toes on the bare rock wall. Apparently, this is the ‘fun’ part. I wouldn’t know as I was holding on to a tree trunk most of the time. By then, my aversion to heights had developed into both up and down perspectives.
The good news is that it was a beautiful day out and the chicken wings were very good.
But I never really took to the sport.
Photo taken in Ontario, Canada, circa 1983