Mix it Up: Outdoor Rock Climbing

"It's no big deal, baby. Just jump over the cliff!"

Yes, that's right, folks. That's what The Boyfriend said to me on Saturday during our hiking/rock climbing adventure with my friend Jed. As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've done some indoor rock climbing. Never had I ever done outdoor rock climbing. It's an entirely different animal, and it terrified me.Outdoor rock climbing is totally different from indoor climbing. You really need a ton of knowledge and trust to be able to successfully take on an outdoor rock climbing trip.

The first thing you have to do is determine where you're going to climb. We went to Great Falls National Park on the Virginia side. For any of you who are not familiar with this park, it's a must-see place if you're in the DC Metro Area, and it's a very popular spot for us locals.

My friend Jed poses with the climbing rope, looking chic. 
Saturday was perfect weather for our excursion, but we all wore layers and brought extra clothing just in case. You really have to make sure that you're comfortable, but also dress smart, as you are doing some hiking, and there are plenty of bugs, thorns, and rocks that could jack you up at any given moment. Since you need special shoes for climbing (unless you go barefoot, which could really jack you up), we wore shoes for hiking, and packed up our climbing shoes with all of our climbing gear and snacks.

We parked the car, and headed for the trails. When we found a good trail, we hiked for a good 10 minutes or so until the boys found a location they liked. At this point, I was super confused, because I could not understand how this was all about to go down. There aren't any pulleys to connect to. Are they seriously about to tie this rope to some trees? What if a tree snaps and I fall to my death in the Potomac River? There are signs everywhere saying that people die here. 

The boys check out a video about tying the
anchor rope, while I look on, concerned.
The boys then proceeded to watch a youtube video just to make sure that they tied the anchor rope properly to a pair of trees. This part is extremely important, so I tried not to disturb them. I also tried to make sure that I didn't pee my pants, because I was on the brink for the majority of our trip. Just had to keep it real with you guys.

After all of this tying and rock climbing jargon, they then tied the climbing rope to the anchor rope and announced that we were ready to climb. At this point, I really had no idea what was going on. Am I supposed to just climb down this rope like a burglar in a Looney Tunes cartoon? Where is the bottom of the rope?!

The guys informed me that we would have to hike down to the bottom of the rope, and would begin climbing from there. At this point, I realized that I was even more clueless than I originally suspected, and that I instantly became deathly afraid of the Potomac.

The hike down was not easy. It was actually one of the most challenging things I'd done in a while. It was slippery at parts, as there was water on some of the rocks, and there were lots of gaps in the rocks and thorns and big spiders (oh my!).

What am I getting myself into? I thought. I'm really about to get messed up out here.

The fellas tying the anchor rope to the trees.
Despite all of my fretting, we safely made it down to the bottom of our
rope, and boy, did it look far from where we started. I looked at the wall we were supposed to climb, and it was super flat, which anyone who has gone climbing knows is not easy to climb at all. The guys analyzed the area, and decided that we could climb down even further, and that the area just below us would be less challenging than the flat rock wall (read: Lex can actually climb it). At this point, we were probably only about 40 feet from the water. We had an amazing view! You could see the Maryland side of the river, we had a close up of the paddleboarders and the white water rafters, and we were sort of removed from the noise of the trail. It was so serene and comforting. That is, of course, until I snapped out of it and realized what we were about to do.

Jed went down first. He repelled down the rope like Spider-Man while The Boyfriend belayed him (heehee). He reached the bottom, and then The Boyfriend pulled the now empty rope back up.

"Alright, Lex. You're up!" he said.

I looked down and thought, ummm... what?!

"How am I supposed to do this," I asked, certainly with a look of sheer terror.

"It's no big deal, baby. Just jump over the cliff!" Just let that marinate for a second...

I honestly don't know who I thought I was, or where that courage came from, but I walked my shaking butt over to the rope and slowly (very slowly) began my descent. With my boyfriend on one side, and one of my best friends on the other, I oddly felt at ease. I really entrusted them with my life and safety. And you know what? I made it down safely!

I felt like such a badass, I made The Boyfriend take a picture of me.

Don't try this at home, kids. 
Of course, right after this photo was snapped, my cell phone fell out of The Boyfriend's pocket, smashed up against a rock, and landed in the Potomac River. Whomp whomp. But, the evidence still exists! (And thank God for Google Plus for syncing my phone shortly before it went rogue.)

I'm not as upset as I thought I would be, though. I tried something way out of my comfort zone, and I had fun, and I got to spend time with people who are special to me. All of that good stuff definitely outweighs the bad!

After the phone incident, we continued climbing, had some good laughs, and I even got some meditation time in, which I really enjoyed. We had quite a few people watching us climb from both the Maryland and Virginia sides, which felt pretty cool. All in all, I had an amazing time, and would totally do it again.

Have you conquered a fear recently? Are you into outdoor sports? Have you ever lost a phone to a body of water?

P.S. Bonus pictures!
The Boyfriend, preparing to climb to the second level of rocks.
We were really close to the water!
Jed striking a pose when he reached the bottom.

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