Try Something New, Have a Blast!

A few months ago my daugh­ter, Aliza, came over after an evening out with her work friends. Aliza told us she and her friends had gone to the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project or MBP, an indoor climb­ing gym where peo­ple climb “cir­cuits” of up to 17 feet high with­out ropes or har­ness­es. She was so excit­ed about it — they’d had a blast!

She said she couldn’t wait to go again, which didn’t sur­prise me.

Aliza tops out a wall
Aliza tops out a wall at the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project.

Then she said I need­ed to try it, too, which sur­prised me a lot. After all, I am afraid of heights and climb­ing — with­out ropes — well, that wasn’t my thing. What was she thinking?

After I bit of cajol­ing over the next few days, I final­ly agreed to go to MBP. Believe me, I was plen­ty ner­vous. I wasn’t sure if I’d like “boul­der­ing” or if the younger peo­ple in the gym would like shar­ing their space with some­one their par­ents’ age. (Isn’t it fun­ny the things we wor­ry about?) My oth­er daugh­ter, Mau­reen, said she would join us, too. At least it would be good “girl time” I told myself. I thought I would go just this once, be seen as a good sport, and leave the climb­ing to the young folks after that.

When we arrived at MBP, a staff mem­ber gave us a quick tour. He explained that boul­der­ing cir­cuits have col­or-cod­ed holds. The col­or of the holds defines the degree of dif­fi­cul­ty for each cir­cuit. There are a lot of cir­cuits for begin­ners, he told us, so we would find plen­ty to do. (As climbers get stronger, more flex­i­ble, and more con­fi­dent, they progress through the colors.)

MBP pro­vid­ed us with climb­ing shoes — spe­cial shoes that hug your feet and mush your toes. Rub­ber on the toes, soles, and heels pro­vides a bet­ter grip as you climb. Climbers use chalk on their hands, too, like gym­nasts do, to keep their hands from slip­ping. No oth­er spe­cial equip­ment is needed.

We now have our own special climbing shoes.
We now have our own spe­cial climb­ing shoes.
Applying chalk
apply­ing chalk

Aliza, Mau­reen, and I strapped on our climb­ing shoes and looked around. The gym was full of climbers of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some looked like they were just learn­ing; oth­ers were so good they looked like they could give Spi­der­man a run for his money.

Let’s go!” Aliza said. We head­ed for a yel­low begin­ner circuit.

Aliza demonstrates how to start a circuit.
Aliza demon­strates how to start a circuit.

We climbed. We fell. We “topped out.” We celebrated.

And, need­less to say, we had a blast!

Why? Well, boul­der­ing is so much more than just exer­cis­ing. For starters, it requires a will­ing­ness to try some­thing daunt­ing, to look a lit­tle sil­ly at times, and to fail. The entire gym floor is cov­ered in a cush­ioned mat about 18 inch­es thick, which is good if you fall – and you will fall! 

Boul­der­ing requires prob­lem solv­ing. All of the cir­cuits are dif­fer­ent and even the cir­cuits with­in the same col­or group­ing require dif­fer­ent skills: bal­ance, flex­i­bil­i­ty, grip strength, abil­i­ty to stand on tiny toe holds. This means you always have to think about what you’re doing. It also leads to cama­raderie among the climbers in the gym. Strangers will give you tips or show you how they’ve over­come a climb­ing hur­dle. It’s true team work. I love that.

Boul­der­ing also requires per­sis­tence. My daugh­ters and I try to give a new cir­cuit at least three tries before we move on. Often, that third try ends in suc­cess. And if it doesn’t, we’re right back at it the next time we’re there, usu­al­ly after talk­ing, mim­ing, and dream­ing about the cir­cuit over the course of the next few days. (I kid you not — at some time or anoth­er all three of us have dreamed of climb­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard route only to come up with a new idea about how to approach it.)

Aimee Bissonette climbing one of the walls at the Minneapolis Bouldering Project.
Aimee Bis­sonette climb­ing a wall at the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project.

Boul­der­ing is a favorite activ­i­ty now. We go two or three times a week and we’re get­ting pret­ty good! It nev­er gets dull. The staff at MBP changes out the cir­cuits every week. Just when you think you’ve mas­tered all of the green cir­cuits in the 40,000 square foot gym, you arrive to find a whole new set to tack­le. We cheer each oth­er on and push each oth­er just a lit­tle. Aliza is espe­cial­ly good at get­ting us to try cir­cuits we think might be beyond our reach. We all ride home laugh­ing and exhaust­ed. (Did I men­tion what a great stress reliev­er it is?)

Could boul­der­ing be your thing, too? Maybe. But even if it’s not, con­sid­er this. The next time a fam­i­ly mem­ber or friend sug­gests doing some­thing out­side your com­fort zone, you could say “yes.”

Agree to go once.

Be a good sport.

Then be pre­pared … you just might have a blast!

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4 years ago

You are amaz­ing! I love every­thing about this. In spir­it, I am boul­der­ing.… ;0)

Reply to  Melanie
4 years ago

The crazy things our kids get us to try, huh! If you ever want to go boul­der­ing, just let me know 🙂

Jane St. Anthony
Jane St. Anthony
4 years ago

What a fab­u­lous and reward­ing endeav­or, Aimee! And it’s a reminder to remain open to possibilities.

David LaRochelle
4 years ago

You are very con­vinc­ing, Aimee! I am going to ask my friends if they want to give this a try!

Aimee Bissonette
Reply to  David LaRochelle
4 years ago

Do it, David! You’re a natural 🙂

Sue Bydlon
Sue Bydlon
4 years ago

I want to try some time! Sounds like so much fun! Maybe I can get Tyler to try too!!!

Aimee Bissonette
Reply to  Sue Bydlon
4 years ago

Tyler would love it! They have kids’ class­es, a spe­cial climb­ing area (where you can even host birth­day par­ties) for kids, kid climb­ing teams, etc. The kids are fearless!