A mid-pandemic climbing story

I pull into the parking lot.  Two other vehicles, and a staff vehicle are parked there.  The rest of the lot is empty.  Backing into my handicapped parking space, I pause my iPod and turn off the audio in my truck.  After turning the ignition off and pulling the key, I pop the driver’s side door open.  The air is chilly, but fresh.  I walk around the front of my truck, which seemed odd, because I always walk around the back of my truck.  Opening the passenger side door, I rearrange a few things.  I already have my left wrist taped from my workout with a friend at the Veteran’s rehab gym, so I do not have to worry about that.  I do need to swap out my climbing shoes in my pack, though.  The box containing my brand new La Sportiva Solution Comp climbing shoes is inside a grey packing bag.  You should have seen the box that came in that bag — it was in rough shape.  The shoes were okay, though.  That is the important part.  I removed the La Sportiva Solutions from my gym pack and replaced the Solution Comps with the regular Solutions in the box, putting the Solution Comps in my gym pack.  I put my white mask over my face and entered the climbing gym.

Things have changed.  The first thing I encountered was the gym’s mannequin, whom I call “Stan”, standing in between the two doors.  The chalkboard read that I was to sanitize my hands prior to going any farther, and the hand sanitizer was inside Stan’s chalk bag.  I obliged.  I entered the foyer of the gym and the employee on duty took my temperature and pointed out that they had machine-washed cloth face masks for the gym patrons to use if I ever forgot my mask.  He gave me a quick rundown of the new protocols, which were for everyone’s safety.  Blue tape squares marked the places a person could park their butts during climbing in front of the main bouldering wall.  These were at opposite ends of the benches and were approximately six feet apart.  The benches for relaxing and spectating had been placed around the magazine tables with their backs to the tables in a circle, so that social distancing was observed.  With the auto-belays, it was asked that every other lane be used, or that I waited until the person next to me came down before I went up if I wished to climb in a lane right next to theirs.  The fitness mezzanine was closed, and, because the stairway to the upper level is so narrow, one person at a time was to be on the stairway.  Common courtesy and patience were to be used in this matter of waiting your turn if someone else was already on their way up or down the stairs.  The employee explained that the entire gym’s common-touch surfaces, such as benches, rails, door handles, and the like, were cleaned once an hour and that, when I was finished climbing, there was hand sanitizer on the back door of the gym, which I was to leave through so that there was no congestion at the front door.  I bought some alcohol-based liquid chalk from him before going to climb as well, thinking it was a good idea and would help sanitize my hands from the common-touch surfaces inherent in a climbing gym — the holds.  (Speaking of liquid chalk with alcohol in it, I purchased some more online this morning.)

I put my things in one of the cubbies, made my way up the stairs to the warm-up bouldering area with my Solution Comps and my Secret Stuff (Friction Labs liquid chalk) in hand, and settled on the bench up there.  There was no one else up there, so I did not have to worry about social distancing.  I took off my Altra Lone Peak 4 trail running shoes and my Darn Tough merino wool crew socks and stuffed them under the bench, along with my wallet because I did not want to fall on it and bruise my backside.  I put on my Solutions Comp climbing shoes, first the left, then the right, and they were everything I hoped they would be!  Review pending, once I get a little more experience with them, by the way.  I applied the liquid chalk to my hands after the tedious process of getting the seal off of the top of the tube, and then watched the fascinating process of the alcohol evaporating and leaving my hands whiter and whiter with chalk until they were finally dry.  I was ready to climb for the first time in two months!  I was efficient with my time on the wall and was out of the gym within an hour, using the restroom sink to wash my hands off with soap and water, then sanitizing my hands on the way out the back door for good measure.  I had never been out the back door, so I had to figure out how to get out of the fenced-in area, but that was no big deal.  My glasses had condensation on them and I wiped them off, undoing one side of my face mask to breathe the fresh air outside on the way to my truck.  I loaded up my pack and set my face mask down on the pile of stuff in the passenger seat in a position where the sunlight would hit it and kill any microbes I had picked up.  The other reason I wanted my mask in the sun was to make it dry more quickly.  I had worn myself out and felt the satisfaction of being tired.  I am out of shape from the pneumonia, but that did not stop me from having a good time at the gym or the climbing gym after that.  I was glad that I finally went to the climbing gym.  What a relief!

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