This week (Tuesday and Wednesday) my father took my 8-year old daughter to Joshua Tree National Park to do some rock climbing. She'd done some simpler climbing before, briefly, a few years ago, and had enjoyed it. (Of course, she did awesome, and everyone around seemed quite impressed by her awesome instincts. Watching her route-find, and use hand holds and moves with flexibility that I can only dream about being able to do was very, very cool.)
The added bonus here was that I was invited to go along as well -- I had never been rock climbing before, and I was anxious to try it myself. (Dad's been climbing for about two years now, and talking about it pretty much continuously since -- now I think I know why.) It was awesome! First off Joshua Tree National Park is absolutely amazing... and it's only about 90 minutes away by car from where I live -- I can't believe I've been missing out on this. (Even if you don't rock climb, there are some beautiful hikes, world-class rock scrabbling -- which is basically half-way between climbing and hiking -- no rope required -- usually, and the natural beauty of the place is astonishing.)
But what was really cool was the climbing. Over two days, we did a number of different climbs (all top-rope climbs), varying from about 5.4 to 5.7. (This is a scale of difficulty, which is too much to explain here.) Prior to the 5.6 and 5.7 climbs, I recall looking up with butterflies in my stomach thinking, "I'm going to climb what? Surely you jest!" (Looking for a foothold on a vertical face, that might be less than a quarter inch wide... and then actually being able to use it to hold your entire weight... well you've got to try it to believe it. Climbing shoes stick like glue.)
During the climb, the butterflies completely vanished, and I was able to focus on getting the job done. (Probably because I never looked further down than my next foothold...)
The best part, after having done it, was the endorphin high at the top, having actually done the climb without giving up, and without actually falling (though a fall is only a couple of inches with a belayed top-rope). Its a huge sense of achievement. To anyone who's not tried this before, I highly recommend it.
Yeah, I'll be going back. It was cool out-climbing Dad (gee, wonder where I got that competitve gene) on the final 5.7, but I'm disappointed that I didn't try one of the 5.9 routes he did on the first day, and I definitely want to go back and do the multi-pitch climb that we turned back on after Brandy got an understandable case of the jitters and chills. (Hanging out on a windy ledge about nearly 100 vertical feet up, knowing that there were three more pitches to go, I certainly sympathized with her sudden onset of acrophobia.)