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An introduction to rock climbing with Jules Harrell

Jules1.JPGWhat a day! Berkshire breezes that wrap their arms round you, soft golden sunlight, and distant hills dappled with the last russets and golds. I was the luckiest person around, because Julie (Jules) Harrell, an avid sportswoman who is writing a series of books for us, decided to come to Great Barrington to give me an introduction to bouldering and rock climbing. We didn’t actually do any climbing today–this was my first time out on rough ground since spraining my ankle in May, and Jules is nursing sore shoulders from paddling all summer–but it was a taste nonetheless. First, here’s Jules with some of her equipment. I’ve been around people who climb for many years and thought I had some idea what was involved, but I was wrong: I didn’t know much of anything. We hiked in to a favorite spot and Jules took me on a tour of different boulders, with different “problems.” I imagined–and, mind, this is embarrassing to admit–bouldering as a kind of obstacle course, climbing up and down over boulders. Instead, it’s rock climbing on the sides of huge rocks, rocks large enough to create a real challenge, but low enough not to require ropes. Instead, the safety net is big pads, which you can see above, next to Jules. The pad goes on the ground under where you’re climbing, and a partner stands ready to move it and to push you onto it if you fall.

Bouldering spot.JPG

Here’s one of the boulders we saw. Fortunately, there were a few people out today, and we got to watch two guys attempt their chosen “problems.” It’s an intense activity, totally involving, so I was baffled when they said it was “kind of like hackey sack.” Not exactly! But in being an activity that justifies men in hanging out together, yes, I guess the sports are similar.

It was an awesome outing, on a perfect day, and when we got back to the office after having lunch on the rocks (publishing’s a tough job but someone has to do it), the idea of a company climbing trip generated lots of excitement. So if you call the office on the 14th and get an answering machine, it’s because we’re all on the mountain with chalk on our hands. On the other hand, you might get Joe or David. They’re claiming that they should stay in town and make sure we get a good spot at Pearl’s, for our after-the-climb drinks.

The books, by the way, are A Woman’s Guide to Cycling, to Kayaking, and to Rock Climbing. The tagline for the series is “finding your inner adventure woman,” and I guess you could say I’m on that quest.

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