“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Sometimes my editor makes me climb the walls.
Monday, February 25, 2013

Good morning, y'all. Here's my latest AdVentures column for Nashville Lifestyles magazine. Warning: Do not try this at home. 

We're dressed in harnesses reminiscent of a sumo wrestler's uniform. Attached to the front of my harness, just below my belly button, is an aluminum oval called a  carabiner, which I am staring at with both skepticism and respect.
"There is no way this thing can hold me up," I say to Taylor, our instructor at Climb Nashville.
Tied to my carabiner is a rope that rises to the ceiling, 40-feet up, looped through a pulley at the top, then falls back down to earth … where my daughter Haley holds the other end.  Just minutes before, she had scaled the wall herself, and as her belayer it was my job to make certain there was no slack in the rope during her ascent, so that if she slipped and fell the rope would catch her at that spot, and then I could lower her, via the pulley, to terra firma.
Now, it's my turn to climb – and I balk. "I weigh 230 pounds," I say. "My daughter here weighs 130 at most. How can she hold me if I fall?"
I remember a childhood cartoon: the piano over the sidewalk, being hoisted to an upper-level apartment when someone lets go the rope, letting it plummet to the ground. It is shattered beyond repair.
"The equipment re-distributes the weight," Taylor reassures me. "You saw how easy it was to hold your daughter's weight. It'll be just as easy for her. Really."
I look over at a thin, bald man who is traversing a climbing wall with the agility of Spiderman. He lets go one hand and dips it into a bag of powdered chalk attached to his belt. He can't weigh more than 170. Every man climbing here today is lean and lanky, unlike myself.
I then recall the warning sign on the bathroom wall: Climbing is Dangerous!. I look over at the middle-aged woman who is midway through her own seemingly successful inaugural climb. I take a deep breath, then begin the safety banter we'd been taught.
"On buh-lay?" I ask Haley.
"Buh-lay on!" she answers.
"Climbing," I say.
"Climb on!"
A climbing wall – and the ones at Climb Nashville are inside – is speckled with a series of different-colored and different-shaped bumps and knobs that you step and grab onto. Each one has a number beneath it such as 5.6 or 5.9, which is the difficulty level based on something called the Yosemite Decimal System.  Taylor has assured us that the white trail is the easiest, so I reach for the first white knob and pull myself up. "Please, God," I whisper. "Don't let me be the piano."
Instantly, I'm surprised at the ease of ascent. It feels similar to climbing a ladder, although the forearms work harder because they must grip foreign objects.
In just under three minutes, I surprise myself by reaching the summit.
I freeze in place.
"Let go!" Haley yells. "I've got you! You can rappel down."
"Let go?!" I yell to the ceiling.
"Let go!"
"Let go?"
"Let go!"
It takes every bit of courage I have, but I let go the knobs. An exhilarating chill races through my nervous system as I defy the law of gravity. My heart beating hard, I lean back in my harness and place my life in the very-capable hands of my daughter.


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