Students in England are inevitably thinking about the start of university. My friends are returning to Leicester to begin their final year and on the other end of the spectrum, my brother has become a fresher. I am now in week four of fall (it’s still strange to not call it autumn) semester, with my first set of my mid-semester exams coming up next week. I am already back in the swing of working (as much as I can be anyway), so much so that last weekend I decided to take a spontaneous break.
Within the University of Florida is an organisation known as “TRiP” who organise outdoor recreational activities from the more normal ones such as backpacking, to canoeing and rock climbing. I decided to go for the latter. The organisation itself is fantastic. All of the planning and preparation is done for you. Roll mats, sleeping bags, tents and more food than you ever need to consume over three days is provided. All that was required of me was to bring myself, and anything I thought that I personally would need for the weekend.
This trip was taking place in Sand Rock, Alabama – nearly an 8 hour drive away (a fact I don’t think I really comprehended until hour 6 of the way there). To get there at a reasonable time, we left extremely early on the Friday morning (this was a silver lining in disguise, as most of the travel time was spent sleeping!). We arrived at Cherokee Rock Village at lunch time, and the leaders showed us how to climb onto a large rock that had the most stunning views. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for them.
After lunch we then went on to learn how to climb and belay one another (the person that stands at the bottom of the rock keeping the rope tight just in case you fall!) and get climbing! I had tried this before on artificial climbing walls, with the ridges and ledges bolted in so that there’s always something to cling onto, but actual rocks and boulders are a whole other ball game. For one it’s not always vertical, and there definitely aren’t many ledges. A couple of notable routes we took over the weekend, were the two that defeated the whole group. One named “Jaws”, named for the rocks at the top that were shaped like sharks teeth – which unfortunately none of us got to see, and “My Dog Has Fleas”. Who knows where that name came from! These walls don’t look difficult until you get on them, and can’t even manage to climb 5 feet off the ground! Luckily the rest were a lot more successful.
The second day involved a lot more climbing, and we tried our hand at abseiling (or rappelling as it’s known here). The first step off the side of the ~80 foot drop was terrifying, and went against all natural instincts of self preservation, despite the fact you’re strapped into a harness. But once that was over, you got to lower yourself down at your own speed and admire the stunning views. A pretty steep walk back up to the top followed this, just in time to watch the sun set.
Having not known many people on the trip before I came, it was a unique opportunity to get to know some new faces and try new things. If I ever have the time to do another one of these whilst I’m still out here, I will definitely be doing so.
Until next time, readers!