Earth Trekking

First things first: holy mackerel! The entries for the V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Giveaway are still rolling in, so get your comments in before tomorrow morning for your chance to win! I love reading about all the various ways you all like to add sparkle to your lives — you inspired me to add a little to my fingernails while I was playing around in Sephora yesterday!

Perhaps a little too much, haha.

At any rate, I hope you all had fabulous weekends, despite the ridiculous cold rain that’s been plaguing the DelMarVa region since Saturday evening. Bleh. I spent my weekend up in Columbia visiting my sister!


Jenny, her husband, and I all got LivingSocial deals for an introductory rock climbing course at Earth Treks Climbing Center a few months back. Since they’re about to move to Houston (SOB!), we needed to use up our deals, so Saturday morning we ventured over to their Columbia location (they have a couple spread throughout Maryland).

Harnesses. So hot right now.

The first forty-five minutes or so of the class were spent teaching us about how to properly put on our harnesses and tie the appropriate knots needed to strap ourselves in. We got the knot-tying down pretty fast, so it wasn’t long before our instructors had us move on to belaying since one of us would always need to support the climber when it came to that.


Before we actually began climbing, I thought that belaying would be the more difficult part. I found it pretty challenging, which probably makes me sound like a total n00b to any actual climbers out there (…which is true, haha). There’s a very specific pattern that you need to follow as you pull the slack of rope, and I kept getting confused. There’s also a whole bunch of jargon that the climber and belayer (is that the right word?) are supposed to exchange, which I kept messing up. “On belay?” “Belay on.” “Climbing!” “Climb on.” And so on, and so forth.


Of course, once I actually started climbing, my tune changed very quickly. It is HARD! It’s fun — really fun, in fact — but it is definitely challenging. You don’t realize how tightly you’re gripping onto the pegs/rocks/things in the wall until you release. Plus, you are using muscles that you rarely use on an everyday basis. My forearms are still killing me!


After the intro climb in the upstairs (read: easier) area, we were let loose in the main climbing room, where there were various routes marked on the walls with colored tape. There’s a rating system that marked how difficult the routes were, and even though we tried one of the lower-end levels that was recommended for us (a 5.6, I think), it was still REALLY tough. There is a HUGE difference between just climbing up willy-nilly and having to follow a specific path. All three of us needed the two on the ground to help direct us to the appropriate pegs, especially for our feet. It was difficult to see which ones we were allowed to step on when we were looking down at them. I only made it a little more than halfway up on that one, Jenny made it about 3/4 of the way, but Dan scaled all the way to the top!

Jenny the Monkey

Generally, we Powells aren’t known for our superhuman upper arm strength, so I knew it would be a challenging go for me. That said, I did a lot better than I thought I would initially! Hoisting myself up wasn’t that difficult, it just became really hard when I didn’t have pegs that were easy to grip onto. Some of them had little divets that you could hook your fingers around, but some of them were just rounded, and my grip wasn’t strong enough to utilize them. Rock climbers must have fingers like BICEPS, I tell ya!


I think it’s also pretty clear that body mass and the way your weight distributes itself really affects how easy it is to climb. A lot of it is mental and feeling confident in the fact that you are fully supported and you won’t fall even if you miss or slip. And of course, since it’s me, I totally slipped at one point and careened off of the wall. It was actually kind of fun!

At the end of the class, they gave us license to go back and do some bouldering, which is free climbing a shorter wall without need for a harness or ropes. I thought this was really, really fun too. The walls only went up like 12 or 13 feet, and they had big fluffy mats underneath to fall onto. I did a little baby route with ease, though there were tons of routes that went up on slants and eventually had people hanging off the ceiling — crazy! I gave a half-assed attempt at one of those before realizing that I was probably being a little overly ambitious. Still, I can totally see why people get into rock climbing. It was fun, a great workout (you don’t realize how hard you’re working until you come down!), and even now I keep thinking back to that first route I couldn’t complete and wish I could give it another shot. Motivating!

The membership fees at Earth Treks were something like $65 a month, which is really comparable to what I pay for at my regular gym right now. They also have a small gym room with treadmills and weights and whatnot, so I could see this as being a great option to have instead of a normal gym membership. If they had a location closer to me, I would really consider switching over! I’ll have to do some research to see if there are any other climbing gyms close by.

Have you ever been rock climbing? There was a rock wall at UREC, the gym on campus at JMU, that I never took advantage of. I kind of wish I had now! Maybe it would have gotten me into the habit of exercising long ago…


  1. Sarasays:

    I climb there!!! So cool you checked it out! 😀 You might also like their workout course called The ROAD. It’s hardcore but not impossible! You get to push yourself to limits you never knew you could go! It changed my life – seriously! It’s like crossfit but not. I actually just canceled my membership there since I’m currently focusing on my riding right now, but I’d definitely be game to climb with you if you want to go more often 🙂 I’m ok with paying for a day pass or stealing my fiance’s guest passes 😛

    • Ooh, yay! We should make a date to meet at one of the locations in between us or something sometime — Rockville, maybe? 😀

  2. Sarasays:

    Sounds like a good plan! 🙂 I’ve been to the Rockville location twice and it offers some fun routes and different walls to climb! Let’s figure out when might be a good time and get our climb on!

  3. I love rock climbing! I haven’t been in a while, but it was one of my favorite activities. The rock wall at UREC was pretty fun too, but I like having more variety. I go to Sportrock in Sterling. They have lots of 30ft walls, and some shorter ones, and a bouldering area. The only thing I didn’t like was that it cost about $24 (with gear and no time limit. It’s $18 I think if you have your own gear.), but they try to rip you off sometimes and make you pay like $30 if you don’t know the prices. Don’t know what the monthly was.

    I know what you mean about using all those muscles! I met a professional climber at Sportrock, I called him Spider-man because that’s how he climbed. He mentioned that it uses the same muscles as martial arts (don’t know if that’s true), but it certainly made me feel badass… before remembering that I have no muscles.

    And next door there’s a cart racing place! (It’s pretty intense.)

  4. you look like a bada$$ rock climbing! haha! also, way to use LivingSocial 🙂

  5. Girl, push with your legs instead of hauling with your arms! That’s the trick. The arms are really only supposed to keep you on the wall. Once that was explained to me I would fly up the wall instead of clinging to the middle for dear life as my arms shook from exhaustion.

    Also I LOVED the wall at UREC. Climb for an hour and then get a smoothie, perfect gym visit. Or racquet ball. But always a smoothie.

  6. Nicolesays:

    Results Gym on Capitol Hill has a climbing wall, and they have locations all around DC. It’s an awesome gym. And the Capitol Hill location has parking and is right near Capitol Soutn and Eastern Market metros. I used to go before baby made it impossible to take an hour to work out – now my exercise pretty much consists of holding him during church. It’s a surprisingly good workout.

    I saw your post about your anxiety, and I feel you. I hope you feel better soon. Acupuncture has really helped me with my depression and anxiety, and I think it can help with weight loss too. Mine is even covered by insurance! I will say this – a lot of friends and I agreed after we had babies that we wished we been kinder to our younger selves in the whole weight/body area. Sometimes we’re our own harshest critics, because society is unrealistic as to what women should look like. You are capable of amazing things and healthy! Love watching your journey in the blog too.

  7. I love rock climbing! It’s so fun and much tougher than it looks.

  8. SO AWESOME!! I have been dying to go there- I’ve actually been talking about it for years! (I don’t know what the hold up is though.)
    You look like a badass- I love it!
    I’ve never been to a climbing center, but took a rock-climbing clinic class in Frederick. It was really awesome- I think it only cost $25 and it was 4 hours of guided instruction in a small group. Here’s some photos of my hotness and coordination:

    • Whoa! Yours was outdoors, and looks way more intense than mine! I only have some sore muscles — didn’t leave with any battle scars, hehe. Awesome!

  9. I LOVE rock climbing! My friends got me into it last summer and I finally joined the rock gym they go to in the fall. I have a membership that lets me go to two different locations and I get there at least once a week. Way to go trying out a 5.6 your first time out – it took me several weeks to work myself up from the 5.3-5.4-5.5 range!

  10. Rachelsays:

    Wanna go rock climbing with me in Alexandria? I have a living social voucher that I want to use. We could go some evening this week or next weekend.

  11. YAY rock climbing is such a blast! HARD but so fun. Awesome workout, too!

  12. Troysays:

    There’s a Sportrock Climbing gym in Alexandria and in Sterling… The of course the Bouldering Wall in my garage at Bouldering Green Climbing Gym.

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