Top Roping in Thakhek

I went rock climbing today! On real, live rocks!

The last time I actually went rock climbing was in middle school, when everyone was having their birthday parties at Vertical Endeavors. While studying abroad in Spain, we hung out at the rock wall in the middle of the university campus, scampering across the roughly 5 m structure between classes. But rock climbing has long appealed to me, particularly as various friend throughout college have gotten involved and expressed great love for the sport.

I was quick to accept an invitation from Jessica, an expat who picked up the climbing bug while in Mali, to drive out to Thakhek today morning and go to Green Climbers Home. The facility recently suffered a fire that ate most of their gear and one of the kitchens. Luckily, there were enough cabins and another kitchen on the premises to keep the place open. I noticed, despite this tragedy, that they seemed to have an ample supply of gear. Talking to our guide Richie as we walked to the course, we learned that this was due to the overwhelming generosity of climbers that had passed through the area in the last few weeks, leaving behind shoes, harnesses, quick draws, and chalk bags. This kindness exemplified the general warmth of the other climbers we encountered on the course; everyone was amiable and chatted casually as we passed one another. Despite being surrounded by much more experienced climbers, not once did I feel judged or out of place for being new.

Richie taught me the proper knot-tying and belaying procedures and led Jessica and I through five routes. I only made it half way up the first route, but completed the next three successfully, before my hands gave out at the end. While the whole morning was a full-body workout, my point of failure was my lack of upper body arm strength, as my fingers lost grip and forearms seized up. Though I’m sure I’ll be horribly sore tomorrow morning, I left with raw hands and muscles and an assorted collection of cuts, bruises, and scrapes, but happy and eager to return soon.



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