By MARIA SHANAHAN
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – After my trip to Hawaii, and Chris’ multiple trips to Hawaii (I think he’s up to six now), we have an insatiable desire to gain altitude on the weekends.
In Hawaii we hiked nearly every day, sometimes gaining more than 2,000 or 3,000 feet in elevation on a single hike.
It was a workout that I sorely miss and upon returning to Rhode Island we were faced with the reality that our little state is very, very flat.
To remedy this, we’ve been known to travel several hours on the weekend just for a good hike, not quite Hawaii challenging, complete with ropes and mud, but anything that will allow us to gain at least several hundred feet in elevation is a nice reprieve from running miles on the beautiful, but flat, beach.
You can imagine our delight when we learned Rock Spot Climbing opened earlier this month in Peace Dale.
Last Saturday, Chris, his brother, Matt, and I, went to Rock Spot to check out the facilities for ourselves.
While it’s not an outdoor hike, the climbing facilities at Rock Spot provide us with an excellent outlet to vent our climbing frustrations, especially useful, as the weather is still particularly un-spring like.
We were given climbing shoes, harnesses and a brief instruction from one of the employees before being sent off on our own climbing adventure.
I’ve never rock climbed before but Chris has climbed and bouldered, which is a style of shorter rock climbing done without ropes, both indoors and outdoors.
There are also two bouldering areas in addition to the numerous climbing walls at Rock Spot.
Chris was excited to learn how to belay, which is a technique used by climbers to exert friction on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. Typically, a climbing partner applies friction at the other end of the rope when the climber is not moving and removes friction from the rope when the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.
Unfortunately, Rock Spot staff members were swamped with birthday parties and family bookings Saturday so no one was available to teach us how to belay.
But, this did not at all hinder our experience.
Rock Spot offers several walls both shorter walls, and taller, 60-foot walls, with auto-belay systems when the climber can harness him or herself in and climb to the top of the wall and repel safely down with the wall. While having someone to belay for you provides you with more climbing options, the auto-belay is good for beginners or lone climbers.
At first I was afraid to trust this machine to ensure I repelled safely down the wall and I began climbing back down with Chris shouting, “Just fall, just let go,” a mere 20 feet below.
I’m not the best with heights, but after several ascents, I trusted the auto-belay, perhaps more than Chris if he was belaying for me.
I can picture him letting my rope slip just a little to scare me, though he knows full well that I’m terrified of heights. However, he continues to blatantly ignore this fear and took me skydiving in the summer and to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto a couple weeks ago, which was formerly the world’s tallest freestanding structure and tallest tower at 1,815.4 feet. We went to the top floor of the tower, at 1,464.9 feet, which has glass windows that allow you look down to see the entire city.
Chris said I was a pale shade of green.
It’s the looking down that scares me, and I tried to avoid doing that at Rock Spot, but I always felt safe with my harness and the auto-belay, even as a novice climber at the top of a 60-foot wall.
While the bouldering portions of the gym don’t require a harness and are a lot lower to the ground, it is much more difficult than it looks.
Rock Spot designates certain routes with different colors to indicate difficulty on both the bouldering and climbing walls.
I believe I was able to finish one of the easiest bouldering courses, but even the next level up proved difficult.
The instructor said it could take 10 hours to master a beginner course. We were at Rock Spot for four hours and I definitely didn’t have it down.
Chris was a climbing pro, taking on wall after wall. There were certainly other climbers there who appeared to be regulars, making it to the top of the most difficult climbing courses with ease and traversing the bouldering wall, which almost looks like half of a cave.
Climbing is a deceitful sport, I learned that you must remember to use both your arms and your legs, otherwise one will tire more quickly than the other.
My arms are still a little sore as I’m writing this, three days later.
Overall, Rock Spot was a great experience and reasonably priced. Next time, Chris and I hope to take a belaying lesson, and we will certainly call in advance to make sure someone is available to give us a lesson. Eventually, we hope we will be able to properly climb some real rocks.
If you go
Rock Spot Climbing, 1174 Kingstown Road, Peace Dale, is open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight. Rates are $24 including gear rental for a full-day gym pass to both climb and boulder. Kids age 7 and under are $15. A day pass with gear rental and a beginner belay lesson costs $36. Climbers may also “rent” a staff member to belay for them for $20 per hour. Rock Spot also offers punch cards, monthly specials, and student and adult one month, three-month and yearlong memberships. They also have weekly discount days throughout the week, where a day pass with gear is $15 and $10 without gear.
Visit www.rockspotclimbing.com  for more information or call (401) 789-SPOT.
Rock Spot, which also has locations in Lincoln and Boston, is having a grand opening celebration the week of April 1 through April 7. Visit the website or Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RockSpotClimbing , for details to come.