Those of you who know me well know that I don’t believe in a one-day birthday celebration. And while some may argue that I’m getting too old to celebrate birthdays the way I do, I would hope that I never out grow it. For a once-a-year event, one day just isn’t enough. Heck, we give more than a month to Christmas, so I can at least claim a week for myself.
So in the spirit of birthday week, we headed down to Charlotte this past weekend with the dogs to visit Kim and Rodney. It just so happens that Kim’s birthday is the same as mine, meaning we clearly need to celebrate birthday week together 🙂
Saturday we headed to the US National White Water Training Center (I think this is what it’s called… it’s such a mouthful I manage to switch it up every time I say it). It’s an awesome man-made rafting center, that also has hiking trails, mt. biking trails, and an outdoor climbing wall. Basically there’s a lot to do there, and we managed to keep ourselves busy all day.
Brian and I got there early and hit up the climbing wall before Kim and Rodney joined us for lunch. My rating of the climbing there is as follows:
-1 for the less than impressive customer service. As Jaci recently discussed on her blog, I might be jaded from my days working with AU’s Housing and Dining, but customer service is SO important. So when we paid our $16 per person (-1 for overpricing), she informed us she’d be out in a minute to do our belay test. She never came out. About 5-10 minutes later a guy did come out and say as soon as he put up the rope he was holding (yay! A rope’s going up!) he would be out to test us. 15 minutes later there was neither a rope or a belay test. We finally pulled aside another guy who had a staff shirt on and he agreed to test us. This was about 30-45 minutes after we paid. They’re lucky I’m only taking off 1 for this.
So now we’re finally at the point where we’re belay testing. Despite my experience belaying, I still get nervous everytime it comes to a new belay test. I worry that the way I’ve learned to do it isn’t what they’re looking for, or that I’ll make a small mistake and they’ll fail me. Which then, of course, would mean no climbing. So as I was belaying Brian I got a little nervous, which resulted in my left hand getting a little too close to my ATC. Something I’ve been warned of many times when learning to belay, and something I NEVER have a problem with. Today, however, I did. Brian fell and the skin between my thumb and first finger got caught in the device. For you climbers out there, you know exactly how painful this is. But since I was testing I didn’t want to let on what happened, and continued belaying. My hand started to bleed, and it started to hurt really bad. I did survive, and must add that I passed with flying colors. However I am taking off a point for this (off the experience of climbing there) because it made holding the rope painful and difficult for the rest of our time there.
-1 for the fact that many (I would even venture to say most) of the ropes weren’t put up. Because it’s an outdoor wall they have to take the ropes down each night, and rather than put them all up the next morning, they only put them up by request. I suppose this makes sense for them, since it saves them work. For us, however, it sucks. We showed up as it was opening, and there were about 5 ropes up. So we started there. Not sure if you can tell by this picture, but this is an entire side of the wall with no ropes. Seriously?! I don’t want to feel like a jerk and every time we come off a rope we ask them to put up a new one. So we didn’t and climbed on the limited ropes they did have up. Even when we went back at 4, there were just a couple added, and a bunch still missing. Bummer.
-1 for the steel anchors. Instead of normal anchors, they had steel ones you had to clip into. And boy were they heavy. Literally pulled my harness down and I could barely tighten it enough. And then when you went to pull the rope through, it was three times as hard because the steel chain was pulling in the opposite direction. NOT FUN, and not recommended for any of you thinking of opening up a gym.
-1 for the many holds that twisted on me. Not so bad if it’s a 5.6 or 5.7 that you can just grab the giant holds and a twisting foot doesn’t matter. But when it’s a 5.9 or 5.10, and you plant your foot depending on that hold to stick, and then it does a 180, not good. When it happens on three routes in a row, even worse. When I visibly got frustrated, a guy working there said the sun exposure does it. Doubtful. I’m pretty sure heat would make the bolts expand (scienctists, correct me if I’m wrong) which would tighten the holds, not loosen them. Either way, they should check them more often so that doesn’t happen.
So this would leave us at a final score of a 4 for the climbing wall at the National White Water Rafting Center in Charlotte. Definitely earn some points for being an outdoor climbing wall (it’s always nicer to be outdoors), but I’ve learned that if you’re going to be outdoors you might as well be on real rock. The natural walls are even higher than 45 feet, rock might crumble but it wont’ twist, and you are the customer service, so it’s guaranteed to be great 🙂