Get Started: Rock climbing a tall treat

Experts show our Kim Tobin the ropes, indoors and out

Get Started: Rock Climbing

BEND, Ore. - If you've ever wanted to go rock climbing, Central Oregon has plenty of places to try, inside and out. Experts say you can make it as extreme as you want, so even beginners can try.

The experts at Bend Rock Gym say it's best to start indoors to master the basics before going outside.

There is a lot of equipment. It starts with the very tight shoes specifically made for rock climbing, ropes and a harness.

"You want it tight above your hip bones," said Ryan Bolen. "The reason for that, is if you fall upside down, you won't fall out of your harness."

Then Bolen teaches me how to properly tie a figure eight knot. A first timer's major mistake is looking up instead of down.

The pros say it's all about footwork.

"Your hands are there for balance, but you're going to keep pushing up onto your toes and just keep stepping up," said Bolen.

The climb up goes pretty smoothly. Each brightly colored hold shows me an ideal spot to grab onto and place my feet.

I make it to the top of the wall, but it's coming down that can bother a lot of beginners.

"As I lower you, get your legs straightened out, and you're basically walking down that wall backward," said Bolen.

After the training indoors, it's time to test my skills outside.

The rock climbing pros, Ryan and Sarah, show me the ropes at Smith Rock State Park. My big challenge is to climb a 100-foot cliff.

"I talk them through everything," Bolen said. "I kind of show them that I'm there, because it is scary.  It's totally weird when you're off the ground."

I quickly see the difference climbing outside. The brightly colored blocks indoors made it easier to find spots to grab onto.

"Weight on your feet is tip No. 1," said Sarah Wyant. "The front of your rock climbing shoe, that very tip of the toe, is actually made to hold your weight. That's your best spot, and the closer you are to the wall, the easier it will be to stand on your feet."

I take my time, slowly and a bit shakily, making my way up the rock. I have a few not so graceful moments as well.

"I think the main thing is learning how to relax," said Bolen. "It's really hard to do."

As I keep moving up, with Ryan's encouragement from down below, I start gaining a little more confidence. The experts say it's important to trust your footwork and be positive.

From the top, the views are breathtaking, and it feels like I conquered a big feat.

"The Hollywood TV thing is usually a dude hanging by one arm, and he's 1,000 feet in the air, and there's no rope, or the thing he had just fell off," laughed Bolen. "It's definitely not like that. Climbing can be as extreme as you want it to be."

Wyant said, "It did start as kind of that outdoor extremist sport. But now, it's definitely been tailored so that you can walk in off the street. You can walk into the gym and learn in a safe, controlled environment."

The thought of rock climbing seemed daunting at first, but learning with the experienced climbers helped me get started on the right foot

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