Last Friday’s adventure began when I loaded my daypack into my friend Marta’s car and we took off for Pendleton County, West Virginia. Our destination was the NRocks Adventure Center where we had reservations to climb Nelson Rocks using a via ferrata, which means “iron path”.
A via ferrata is a method of rock climbing which utilizes a system of prefixed cables and metal rungs. The idea is to allow climbers with no technical experience to make a safe climb up an otherwise inaccessible rock wall. After being fitted with a climbing harness and a helmet, we walked uphill for a mile before reaching the base of the rocks.
It’s possible that I should have just turned around at that point but pure stubbornness and a prayer kept me going. I can honestly say that this experience was the most physically demanding activity I’ve ever done. Being one of the oldest, as well as the slowest in our group of 13, I took up the rear, and as I watched the rest of the group begin their climb, I hoped I was not making a huge mistake. Once I started, I knew I’d have to keep going, at least as far as one of the escape routes. I think I asked three times about alternate ways of getting back to our car!
It was not like climbing a ladder. It was hard. It was exhausting. It was mentally challenging, as well. I’ve never had to push myself like I did that day. Several times I had to wedge my knees or elbows into a nook just to get the leverage to go up one more step. Our climbing guide was the ultimate of patient people. With each encouraging word, each calm suggestion, I grunted my way around a blind turn or up a vertical wall.
When we finally arrived at the suspended footbridge, the rest of the group cheered. I think they had visions of me hanging onto the side of that rock for the rest of my life. Personally, I think they were all part mountain goat! We’d reached the easiest part of the experience for me. The bridge, which was 150 feet high and 200 feet long, was a lot of fun. We had perfect weather that day so there wasn’t any wind making it sway.
The decision to exit at that point was an easy one to make. We had discussed climbing the optional vertical wall but it was not going to be a part of my experience. It took everything in me to scramble over the last few rocks to the trail that led to the road. I was extremely grateful when we were picked up and driven back to the office. My legs were shaking, my bruised body was starting to hurt, and I was craving a long, cold drink. Taking off my hot, sweaty shoes was pure pleasure. I had taken giant steps beyond normal that day and lived to tell the tale!