Absolute Rock Stars

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On Saturday, we took our first paseo (field trip) with the girls from Colegio Miguel Grau, the newest addition to the GSW program

We went with Club de Escalada D2 Cusco, an awesome rock climbing club, that taught the girls how to climb and provided all the necessary equipment for the day. The helpers were so enthusiastic and patient, and they created such a comfortable learning environment.

We all had such an amazing time.

It was the first time that any of the girls had climbed, and it was the first time that Kyla and I had ever climbed in nature. At the beginning, most of the girls were terrified and no one volunteered to go first. Finally, we convinced one chica, Yasmin, to start (the one time having the closest birthday may not benefit you!). Like a monkey, she climbed all the way to the top of the wall on her first try and preceded to make it to the top on every route throughout the day.

The other girls were inspired by Yasmin and excited to try their first climb. Most did not pick up on climbing quite as easily. Some struggled to climb up, were scared of falling, and scared of even letting go to come back down. Sylvia got up about half way and then totally froze. All of the chicas cheered her on as she climbed, and the air was filled with voices screaming “Si, se puede!” – yes, you can! Eventually, with enough support from the profes, belayers, and teammates, she found the nerve to let go of the wall and come back down to the ground. Kyla and I were worried that she may be too scared to try again and would end up sitting around for the rest of the day. Yet, to our excitement, after refueling with some water and snacks, she was ready to go and set a goal to climb higher than she had previously. She succeeded in that goal and continued to climb for the rest of the day.

I also had the opportunity to climb.

I absolutely loved it, but quickly learned how challenging it could be to get up the wall. Unlike in a climbing gym, the rock does not always have perfect handgrips, it scratches your body easily, and there are even plants in the walls full of spikes that jam right into your body. Being out in nature and surrounded by the mountains and a group of people supporting me as I climbed definitely made it all worth it.

On one of my climbs, I got stuck and could not find anywhere to put my feet in the wall. My arms were tiring, and I thought that I might just have to call it quits. In that moment, however, all the girls came and cheered me on and encouraged me to keep trying. After a few more failed efforts, I finally found a ledge to put my feet and made it to the top of the wall. Their support propelled me forward and helped me succeed.

Two of our main goals are to teach our students about teamwork and self-confidence. Throughout the day it was a true test of those skills. The girls exceeded with flying colors. They constantly supported one another and the profes, and they maintained confidence in themselves that si puedo, I can actually do it.

At the end of the day, we shared a rose and thorn – a good and bad experience from the trip.

Almost all of the girls said that their “thorn” was being scared to climb and that, often while they were climbing it was really difficult and terrifying to be so high off the ground. Their “roses” were that they overcame that fear and kept climbing. My “thorn” for the day: I came home with thorns/spines all over my fingers. My “rose”: seeing how well the girls supported one another and cheered each other on, and no matter how scared they were they kept trying again and again and again.

We are all already looking forward to our next climb.

— Rachel

  • Double checking to make sure the harness is secure

  • A quick selfie break in between climbs

  • Teamwork makes the dream work! Carrying the picnic lunch up to the climbing area

  • Refueling with some sammys before the next climb

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