By Suzanne Edwards
The wall above me at the Austin Rock Gym suddenly seems a mile high as I search desperately for a handhold; I have no time for well thought-out strategies. “Reach! Use your legs!” shouts one of my buddies from down below. I push from my toes and slowly proceed up the wall, finding myself staring at the last stretch, my limbs shaking uncontrollably. All I need to do is hop up—just a bit—and latch on to the last handhold, but I can barely maintain my current position, let alone hop. “Come on, Suzanne, bump it up!” my friends holler encouragingly. I squint my eyes and, with all the intensity I can muster, manage to grasp the rock with my hand. Success!
Prior to joining this indoor playground full of simulation rock walls and squishy floors, I had only dallied in rock climbing, most notably at Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt. But I had seen my fair share of movies in which rugged mountaineers stretched for tiny crags in the rock face,their veins bulging from every muscle, and I thought of rock climbing as an “extreme” sport; granted, on those early climbs, my muscles moved in ways completely foreign to me. Without technique, my performance was less than stellar. But reaching the summit, no matter how awkwardly I got there, quieted all self-consciousness. Aglow with a sense of accomplishment, it was hard to be bothered with outward appearances. It seemed to me that rock-climbing was something I could really grab hold of.
From the July 2008 issue.