Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)
TITLE: Without Belay
By Holly Westefeld
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"Not much. I'm actually caught up on everything, so I'm ready for some r and r after dinner." Jay glanced at Chris's sparse selections. "You on a diet?"
"Nah. Going climbing after dinner, and you don't do that on a full stomach. Wanna come?"
"I've never climbed before--..."
"Doesn't matter. Neither had I, until a month ago."
"Don't you need special equipment?"
"You just borrow it from the equipment desk in the athletic center."
"I'm not, ... um, ... crazy about heights," Jay sputtered.
"It's perfectly safe. You're in a harness, and there's a rope keeping you from falling, held by someone trained to keep just the right tension on it."
Jay still looked hesitant.
"At least come watch," Chris urged.
A slow grin spread over Jay's face. "One condition."
"Ok, ok. If I mention Jesus, I'll spring for dessert and soda at the student center. Deal?"
They laughed, and dug into the remainder of their dinners.
* * *
The forty foot high structure loomed directly ahead as they entered.
"What size shoe do you wear?" Chris asked as they approached the equipment desk.
They scanned their student ID's, collected their gear, and headed for a bench to change shoes.
Jay stuffed one foot after the other into the shoes. "Man, these are tight!"
"They're supposed to be. The last thing you want is your foot to shifting on a precarious hold."
Jay observed closely, and emulated, as Chris buckled on his harness. "Let me get a belay, and demonstrate the easiest route."
"Your belay is the person certified to handle your rope. Your anchor."
"Hey, Andrew," Chris called. "Can I get a belay? I have a newbie to show the ropes to."
Andrew groaned, and switched places with his own belay. "Yeah, sure."
Chris carefully tied the rope to the top of the harness. "On belay?"
Andrew inspected the knot, and checked the buckles on belt and leg loops. "Belay is on."
Chris pulled a block of chalk from a bag dangling from the harness, rubbed both hands over it, and slipped it back in the bag as he approached the bottom of the wall. "Climbing?"
Jay watched intently as Chris lithely scaled the wall, using a series of blue holds. At the top, he pushed a button, which sounded a horn, and Andrew began to slowly feed the rope out for his descent.
"You sure made that look easy!"
"I've done that route dozens of times, but it sure wasn't easy the first time." He untied the rope and showed Jay how to knot it correctly. "Thanks, Andrew. I'll take over and belay for Jay."
"So now I'm supposed to say--was
Chris examined the knot and buckles. "Belay is on."
Jay chalked his hands, as he had seen Chris do. At the foot of the wall, dinner weighing heavy in his stomach, he stretched for the first blue grip. "Climbing?"
"Climb on! Keep focused on the next hold," Chris advised, "not looking too far ahead, and especially not back down."
Slowly, Jay ascended, from blue hold to blue hold, grateful for the traction and snug security of the shoes. By the time he was halfway, his palms were sweaty, despite the chalk, and there was no way he was going to hang on with only one hand long enough to refresh it. Another ten feet--... His left foot slipped off the thinnest hold he'd encountered, causing his left hand to lose its grip. Just as panic almost bubbled out as a scream, he felt the support and security of the rope. Drawing a deep breath, he reached for the next hold, and the next, and ... finally ... the button!
Thankful for slightly wider holds, Jay slipped each hand, in turn, into the chalk bag before descending. Once again on solid ground, he flexed muscles he hadn't known he possessed. "I did it!"
"Good goin', man," Chris congratulated.
Jay pointed to another climber. "Why's his rope only going down?"
"That's a more advanced skill called lead climbing. You attach clips to anchors on the wall as you climb, and the rope to the clips."
"I'll get the basics down first, I think."
"Oh, yeah. No matter how advanced you get, though, you always need a belay. ... Ya know, goin' through life without Jesus is like climbing without a belay."
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