Rock climbing,

in case you haven’t tried it, comes in several varieties.

First, you have to decide whether you’re going to climb outdoors or in. Outdoors is very pretty (though you’ll be too busy sweating and clinging to the rockface to enjoy it properly) and offers a great excuse to visit exotic locales (though you’ll be too sore and exhausted to do anything touristy). Outdoors also comes with bugs, sketchy rock, and Colorado climbers who will climb better than you, but not really well, and rub it in your face with their proudly-displayed hand wounds. This is VERY BAD FORM, and I’ll tell you why in a bit.

Indoors climbing is air-conditioned, the routes have been constructed to be doable (though you’ll swear a few of them are impossible), and you will quickly make friends at your chosen climbing gym. However, indoors climbing also means you occasionally have to put up with children, ugh. It also means that when you fall on your ass, at least twenty people will be watching.

My sister is an outdoor climber who enjoys some indoor climbing. She was baptized in blood and chalk while living in Yosemite, and is the single toughest living human bar none. You may think you’re pretty tough stuff, and could totally take a 21-year-old woman who shares my weenie genetics. You would be terribly, terribly wrong.

I am the kind of indoor climber that gets six feet off the ground, looks down, and gets queasy. I used to be… well, not even quite decent, but okayish in high school. (I think I was the first of us to take an interest in rock climbing, mainly because of a hot picture of a rock climbing celebrity in a magazine; she was the one who perfected the art, was hit on by said hot celebrity, and shut him down for being a douche.) Now, though, I’m an old duffer schoolmarm librarian type, and as previously mentioned: a weenie.

So, of course, I went climbing with her and her equally climbery manfriend. They skittered across the rock like waterbugs on a vertical pond, swinging and bridging and stretching so quickly and cleanly it looked like the natural mode of transportation for humans. They did not fall.

I went up a route, gripping the rocks like the hands of a dying loved one, arms locking and trembling, sweat dripping into the back of my glasses, and feet clanking against every nubbin and spur of rock regardless of whether it was “on” (read: a part of this route as opposed to a totally different route). The first thing I did was hang in one spot for about two minutes straight while my muscles insisted that no, this was not an acceptable course of action, and threatened to give out entirely. Behind and (very slightly) below me, my sister urged me to stop thinking and just move.

Easy for her to say. She is at least half mountain goat, and I am at least half mountain troll.

Then I squinched up my face, determined not to humiliate myself, and threw myself upward. And then upward again, grabbing the next ledge and sweating all over it while my feet scrabbled for purchase. Which they found.

Suddenly I realized that I was halfway up the wall, and my arms weren’t nearly as angry. I paused to celebrate–

And my arms immediately shut down. I froze up; the ache settled back in, and I nearly fell.

Well, it worked before. I threw myself up the wall as if pursued by crocodiles, giving myself barely enough time on one foothold to recognize that I had a grip on it before I started searching for the next. And it was so natural! The wall stopped being a sheer cliff of wet granite and became a ladder with strangely dispersed and ugly rungs, leaning at a friendly slope. Then I was at the top, and a second later rappelling back toward the ground.

I did it again, and again. By the fourth time my arms really were shot, totally rubbery and stuck in the claw position, and I fell off that route– but after a game attempt, and at least halfway up. Turns out, the secret to rock climbing is that you can’t stop to rest or worry about what’s next or look down– you have to keep going, hurling yourself toward the next handhold without even pausing to congratulate yourself on the last.

It helps to be really, really strong, too. Weenies like me spend the day after wincing and limping and asking techs, very politely, if they would mind opening this drawer for me, please.

(If I had it to do over again, I might not have completely worn out both forearms the night before I got to place about twenty IVs and two foleys. Hoo-wee, the cramps.)


On that note, yes, I finally got a day in the ER! It was amazing and beautiful and everything I hoped it would be, even if nobody bled out on the floor. There were plenty of critical and emergent cases to pretend I was actually helping with, and although I wasn’t great by any means, I was good. And the time flew by, leaving me exhausted and happy and fulfilled and ready to punch the next clinical in the face.

It left me pretty sore, too. Who wants to open the fridge for me?

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