Rock Climbers viewed from the climbers loop trail - Mission Trails Park San DiegoI had received the offers many times from the daily deal websites, “Learn to rock climb”, “beginning rock climbing”… but I had always passed on those offers. I had also seen groups of climbers while hiking in San Diego. So one day last year I got a wild hair, decided to try something new, and bought a couple Groupon vouchers. The class was with The Southern Terrain company. They do everything from beginning classes to major adventure trips around the world. Jenny Starting her chimney climbThe class was in Mission Trails Regional Park on the east side of San Diego. There are permanent climbing points in the park that make it quick to set up the equipment so you can experience several different climbs with increasing levels of difficulty in a 4 hour class. The instructors bring all the equipment (although if you have larger than size 10 feet you may want to bring your own climbing shoes. They also bring the experience necessary for a safe climb even for beginners. This particular class was for people with no experience. We started with a chimney climb that was physically challenging, but not technically difficult. By the time I finished the first climb they had set up the other climbing routes. One was fairly easy until you got to the top, the other was more advanced… a nice way to say, no way I was ready for that! The ropes you see in the pictures are really safety equipment and made coming down much easier. It was reassuring when the foot or finger holds were small to know that you weren’t going anywhere.
Me near the top of the chimney climb
The chimney only required keeping pressure against your hands and more importantly your feet by pushing with your back. This allowed me to feel pretty secure as I moved a hand or a foot to the next plant point as I went up the chimney. It is hard on your shirt though so don’t wear your favorite clothes to this class. Me near the top of the second climb.The second climb was up a fairly large crack in the rock. There were good hand and feet holds for most of the way up, but for me it was difficult to maintain balance. I had to focus on staying close to the rock face. To get up the last few feet required placing a foot on a very small knob out on the face of the rock on the right and using a pressure hold on the left. With running shoes instead of climbing shoes I could not get enough grip on the foot hold to move myself up. There was also a cheater rope, but I didn’t see the point in using that. Jenny standing at the top of the second climb.So I didn’t make it all the way to the top of the second climb, but felt OK about how far I did get. On the other hand, Jenny made it to the top 3 times, the third time without using the rope! I was very impressed. There were a couple of people who were able to get most of the way up the third climb. I couldn’t get past the hand transverse near the bottom of the climb. I think climbing shoes would have helped here too. There were no foot holds, but those who made it still pressed their shoes against the granite to help climb. Of course after the 3 earlier climbs (I tried the second one twice) I was pretty tired too. At the top of the third climb there was a round rock outcropping that you had to pull yourself to the top of, then press yourself up to get a foot on top of it. No one made it past that point.
I would try this again sometime, but I doubt I’ll become a “rock climber”. If an opportunity comes up to try this in a different location I will probably give it a try. If I was 20 years younger and 40 pounds lighter (which I was 20 years ago) I would be willing to put more effort into getting better at this. I didn’t go into this to become a rock climber, just to have a new experience. It was definitely a fun time and a great confidence builder. I would recommend giving this a try if you are in fairly good shape.


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