Rock-climbing rookie takes bite out of height


 

 

Rock climbing is not in my genes, but the temptation can be overwhelming sometimes.

In once trying to prove my mettle as an outdoorswoman to a former beau, I revved up the bravado and hastily scaled up one side of a huge boulder that loomed above Trancas Creek in Malibu.

Once I reached the top, the bravado evaporated and panic set in. The descent was dizzying and steep.

Well, there must be easier ways to sour a budding love match. The beau cajoled, I whimpered and clawed my way back down the route I had come, then elected to plunge fully-clothed into the cold creek current and dog paddle around the imposing obstacle. A striped racer snake doing laps in the creek managed to nip me through my sopping shirt. All this was nothing compared to the prospect of becoming mashed potatoes in an accidental plunge off the boulder.

So it’s an odd thing for a person challenged by heights to envy characters in films who get to live in treehouses, vine-swinging to their front doors, hobnobbing with bird and monkey buddies, hanging out at Big Branch Cafe amid orchids and ferns.

 

 

I once tried screwing up my courage to erect a plywood treehouse in the oak in my Agoura backyard. Climbing a ladder a few feet didn’t faze me. It was the bee swarm and possessive squirrels and raccoons that quashed my plan.

Then, on a jaunt through the boulder-laden oak woodland at Oakbrook Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, I was seized by the desire to have a lofty lunch, up near the treetops where it was cool and secluded. Others could pass by and not even know I was lording over the world from my aerie.

I selected an outcropping of sandstone boulders to climb to reach the top of a flat-topped rock tickled by leafy overhanging oak branches. The boulders looked pretty stable, but being a puny nervous Nellie I pushed against them with all my might to see if any were “wobblers.” None were, so I launched into my “wilderness girl” shtick again, placing fingers just so on the rough surfaces, hauling and heaving myself up, scraping a kneecap here, an ankle there.

A bed of poison oak loomed below my dangling legs. A fly flew up one nostril. I held on as if super glued in place. Crawling and sprawling, I reached the summit.

As I set out my rock-hewn repast high above the forest floor

(sorry not to have champagne to toast my achievement), I noticed another route to the top. It was around the other side and required no climbing whatsoever. A series of rocks had tumbled down just so, to create a handy, welldefined staircase directly to the top of the immense boulder I’d struggled up.

Such is the fate of a rockclimbing rookie.

Glasser is a freelance writer and nature enthusiast. Reach her at whirlawaygig@gmail.com.