Sunday, March 8, 2015

On Belay?

That's Colin, expert climber :D
My friends and I trekked east to Marymoor Park today near Lake Sammamish in Redmond. First of all, let me tell you that this park is a state gem. It's got the fixins for whatever outdoorsy thing you want to do when it's 60+ degree's on a sunny day - from rugby to cricket to RC flying, and last but not least, climbing. I've been to Marymoor Park before for a number of occasions. I saw Cirque Du Soleil Kooza there and rode my bike in the arena as small child, but never have I ever been to their rope wall for some climbing. It's got a number of pitches for all skill levels and really is the perfect place to learn top rope technique. Luckily, my friend, Colin, is a climbing instructor at Stone Gardens in Bellevue and an expert climber himself. I'd asked him a few days ago if he'd teach me the ways of the rock because I eventually want to scale an icefall and really get into ice climbing in the future. He was more than happy to get out so we and a couple of other friends met there for some climb time this morning.

In terms of gear, I now have the basic essentials for climbing. I had to go pick up a few things at REI but basically, my gear bag now includes: 
These material items are the must-have, aside from rope and more anchors, to move past bouldering and onto top rope climbing. Next, Colin taught me how to belay by working with the rope and my belay device properly, as well as the lingo used between you and your climber. It's all pretty easy but you have to be aware of everything in that moment - what the climber is doing or saying, keeping a taught rope, and keeping your hands in the locking position at all times. 

My first belay wahoooo!
Then it was my turn to be the climber and rope up into my harness. You use a Figure Eight knot which is kind of tricky until you do it enough to remember how to do it again. I'm sure if you're just getting into climbing, you'd be with someone who would show you how to tie one correctly. Safety matters, these knots can mean serious injury if you're not doing it right. After you tie up, make sure you and your belayer are on the same page by checking their own set up.

I started on my first pitch and I was a little surprised when I made it all the way to the top. I was slow and struggled with the real rock and ledge grips. I'm used to gym climbing with perfect hand holds. I guess my upper body strength was enough to get me up there but I definitely need better climbing technique and to use my legs. At the top, there was a sweet platform you could anchor into and just chill. Definitely the spot to relax the nerves when you're 30+ feet off the ground.

Mark and the Rockwall
We all did a few more routes after this. I climbed one more where Colin belayed me from the very top platform, so that three of us ended up chilling up there. Colin was setting things up so that we could learn to self-rappel down the face this time. This part was awesome because as the climber, you are in total control of your pace down the rock as you use your belay device to lock and unlock the rope as you move. You have to trust yourself that this little belay device is giving enough friction for the rope to not slip through. It was a little terrifying stepping off the ledge. Luckily, Colin was also belaying me just incase I fudged up. I rappelled down in a sinch though and it was probably the greatest feeling ever. 

Today was too cool, learning lots of new skills, and I am so grateful to have friends who are this knowledgable and willing to teach me the ways of a great outdoor sport. Can't wait to get outside to some real rock and work on more technique. ⤲


  1. My brother introduced me to rope climbing since he insisted I need it for fitness and survival. He helped me shop for some topnotch gloves and quality ropes which I can use immediately. I was quite apprehensive at first, but I was surprised that it could be fun and challenging. The first technique I learned was the grip and lock, and from then on, it was smooth sailing for me. I love the sport and I think more should be exposed to this activity. For more information see

  2. Thanks for your great post! I love finding out about King Country and the park which I think is awesome. I love climbing and camping; and is constantly looking for places to go to. I think having the proper gear and accessories are crucial for safe climbing. I'm looking for new climbing harnesses right now and reading numerous reviews before choosing the right one for my needs. By the way, here's a site that I've stumbled into that provided great reviews on the top brands today. Here's the link