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Learning to rock climb like a girl

September 2, 2008 |  1:21 pm

Rock climbing can be intimidating for beginners — there's all those foreign terms like "belay" and "rappel" and "dihedral" that don't easily roll off the tongue. Then there's the actual climbing itself, a somewhat precarious venture involving hard, unforgiving terrain (that's the "rock" part) and heights (that would be your "climbing" part).

MountainSo it's understandable that some people, namely women, might want to be with their own gender as they take to the ropes while learning the ropes. The Yosemite Mountaineering School understands this, and is now offering Girls on Granite, a package offered twice this month that includes a full day of instruction with a certified female instructor, plus a half-day guided hike with a female guide, and two nights lodging.

"We've always had requests from women for female guides," says school director Dave Bengston, adding that the class entails how to tie knots, how to belay (controlling the rope so a climber doesn't fall), proper use of equipment, and safety techniques. Then it's climbing time. And no rock walls, this is the real deal. It is Yosemite, after all. The half-day hike is described as moderate, but Bengston says, "If the group is gung ho, then it'll be more of a gung ho hike." The program is geared to rank beginners or those with some climbing experience.

While you don't have to be in triathlon shape to climb, it is a good idea, as Bengston puts it, to be "an adventurous, active person." Climbing is a full-body workout, with considerable demands on the upper body. But don't worry if you have a fear of heights. That, he says, "is pretty normal. We deal with that every day."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite Inc.