Issue 4, Semester 2, 2019
Alright, when the hell did everybody get into bouldering? It seems like I glance away for five minutes, and suddenly we’re all too good for old-fashioned horizontal movement. Celebrities are into it, my friends are doing it, I’m pretty sure my mum is on board too. Why is everybody suddenly so keen to re-enact the opening scene of Mission: Impossible 2?
Maybe I’m just out of touch. I only heard about bouldering a few months ago when a friend asked me to join them. Now, I say ‘heard about it’ by which I mean, discovered that we’re apparently just making up unnecessary words these days.
‘What is bouldering?’ I asked.
‘It’s an indoor sport where you scale walls covered in hand-holds.’
‘Isn’t that just rock-climbing?’
‘Completely different thing. You don’t wear a harness or use ropes.’
Oh, I see, it’s rock-climbing for suicidal people. I’m pretty sure that this whole thing is a scam invented by head-trauma surgeons to combat a slump in business. Nevertheless, shortly after this conversation, I found myself sitting in my friend’s car on the way to their local indoor bouldering gym, for my first, and only taste of this bizarre pastime.
The first thing I noticed when I walked through the doorway, was that for every person climbing a wall, there seemed to be six or seven people dedicated to documenting their heroic efforts for social media posterity. Bouldering is nothing if not Instagrammable, I considered, as I watched a girl posing for her cell-phone camera crew, whilst nonchalantly clinging to the concave face of an artificial overhang.
Then my second thought hit me, ‘HOLY SHIT, THAT GIRL IS HANGING FROM THE UNDERSIDE OF A LEDGE! DID SOMEBODY RELEASE A CAGE OF RADIOACTIVE SPIDERS AROUND HERE? ARE HER BICEPS MADE OF MITHRIL? HOW IS SHE DOING THAT?!’ As my gaze eventually widened beyond this aberrant behaviour, I noticed that the entire room was indeed full of humans displaying seemingly supernatural powers of clinging to walls without falling off. Where the hell is everybody getting all this upper body strength from?
At this stage, my sense of masculinity, fragile at the best of times, was in serious danger. I began backing out of the room, only for my friend to grab my arm and steer me toward the beginner’s wall—a simple flat surface with evenly spaced grips. I sized up my opponent, and quickly ran through my mental checklist of excuses. My bone spurs were acting up; physical activity outside of the confines of labour is an exercise in bourgeois decadence; an old Gypsy woman predicted that I would die this way—damn, I had already used them all recently.
And so, my epic climb began. With mighty grunts of exertion and a very necessary flexing of muscles, I heaved myself onto the cliff face, pushing toward the peak. In my mind, I pictured myself as the mighty Capaneus, scaling the walls of Thebes and daring the gods themselves to strike me down. My hair billowed in the wind from the indoor fans; a mighty eagle soared through the heavens next to me, I ascended two feet, dare I reach for three? Sadly it was not to be, for at this point I chanced to look down, and upon seeing the eighty centimetres of void stretching between me and the earthly realm from whence I came, the caveman part of my brain immediately unleashed an atavistic howl of terror, screaming ‘height bad, fall ouchy,’ whereupon I promptly burst into tears.
Some time later, after several burly instructors finally managed to pry me from my death-grip to the wall, and douse me in cold water, I decided to readjust my goals and instead set my sights on the much more attainable goal of scaling the kids wall. Now, when I say ‘wall’ I am aggrandising a tad here—‘gentle slope with handholds’ might be a more appropriate title. After several minutes appraising the topography on offer, I finally set my sights on a respectable forty-degree incline, and tentatively began inching my way upward, doing my best to block out the jeering calls of the children scampering up and down around me. All was going well, until just before I reached the top, my hand slipped, resulting in a rather comic, albeit extremely painful collision of my face and the moulded resin of a handgrip.
During the car ride home, freshly attired with a set of wadded tissue paper stuffed in my bleeding nostrils, I decided that the most appropriate and mature way to deal with the day’s events was to pout in sullen silence. Eventually my friend convinced me to at least stop off for a coffee. I ordered myself a milkshake, because I had earned it.
Dave is a First Year JD Student.