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The walls were covered in a multitude of weird knobs, bumps, lumps and shapes. They were scattered like pimples over a nervous 14-year-old’s cheeks.

Some of these bumps were about as big as a deflated soccer ball or a watermelon crushed in the middle of the road. Others weren’t much bigger than a teacup or an old, fast food restaurant ashtray.

In the far corner, there was something resembling a cartoon mushroom.

Somehow, I was supposed to make my way from side to side, up and down along these walls just using these odd shapes — and with my first trip to eNeRGy Rock Gym, an indoor, bouldering, rock climbing gym just outside of Charleston, my results were a bit mixed.

Owner and experience climber David Sadler encouraged me, but I kept getting tangled up by my own limbs. I couldn’t figure out my right from my left hand and every now and then, had to just quit and start over.

Over the past three months, I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I’d like to do when I finished my tour of the state and came back to “One Month at a Time.”

But nothing was really coming to me, not until I spent an afternoon scrambling over the cracks and crevices of the ancient rocks at Dolly Sods in Grant County. Under a blue sky and a kind sun, I’d felt like I was 12-years-old all over again — which was probably the last time I tried to climb a rock.

I lost interest in climbing much of anything during my teen years, though I was occasionally amazed and amused by people who climbed rocks for fun. In college, I had a friend named Chris who we all called “Trail Mix.”

There were a lot of guys named Chris in the men’s dorm at Concord my first year. It was just easier to give everyone a nickname than yell “Chris” into a room and have to tell half the crowd, “No, not you.”

We called this Chris “Trail Mix” because he was the quintessential hippie outdoorsman. He had long hair, wore expensive sandals and was well-trained with the hacky sack and the frisbee. I think he could probably juggle, too.

He’d hiked and camped in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and spent weeks alone on the Appalachian Trail.

Trail Mix was one of the most naturally cool people I’d ever met. Very smart — and he climbed rocks. He rappelled down cliffs and rock faces using ropes and he did what’s called bouldering, or free solo climbing — which is to say, he climbed up rocks or cliffs without ropes.

As a joke, one afternoon, he climbed up the side of the college administration building. I think he got to the roof and then received something like a lecture from campus security, though I doubt there was anything in the student handbook about not climbing up the walls of college buildings like Spider-Man.

That kind of climbing was really just a memory until Dolly Sods and nearby Seneca Rocks, not that I suddenly thought I should go right out and try to climb at either of those parks. I just thought that maybe I could look into climbing, that maybe a little bit of rock climbing could be a way to dislodge my on again/off again discomfort with heights.

A couple of years ago, I took an untethered walk on the catwalk underneath the New River Gorge Bridge as part of a ziplining adventure. The walk started easy enough, but by the time I got to where I was supposed to kick off from the bridge and glide to the ground, I was a wreck. My legs felt like lead. My head throbbed and I felt like I was carrying a ball of ice in my stomach.

I got off the bridge. Ziplining hadn’t been so bad, but after that trip, I began getting anxious about heights. I had to step back from rails and ledges. I was careful about where and when I looked down.

Learning about rock climbing, I thought, could be a way to climb out of what was starting to sound like a real-life phobia.

Also, rock climbing had been on my list of things to look into before the pandemic but had fallen by the wayside along with most of my other plans for 2020.

I don’t remember how I found eNeRGy Rock Gym. They don’t advertise. The facility is a bit out of the way, just down the road from a cemetery that no one much visits.

When we met, Dave seemed proud of his gym’s obscure location. You have to decide to find eNeRGy in the first place and then seek it out. It’s not the sort of gym where you happen by it a thousand times on your way to work and then stop in on a whim because you’re just curious.

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It’s a place you go if you’re on a particular kind of quest, maybe.

Just getting to the door is a problem to solve and that’s partly what rock climbing, particularly bouldering, is about — solving problems.

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that doesn’t use ropes or harnesses. It can be more physically demanding than other kinds of rock climbing, but it’s also simpler.

It’s more than physical exercise. Climbing is working a natural puzzle using observation and logic. You have to figure out how to get from point A to point Z, which hand goes where and when, how to move your feet and also how to best use your body.

“It’s about resource management,” David told me. “As soon as you start, the clock is ticking. You’re trying to solve the problem [get to the end of the climb] before fatigue sets in, before you run out of energy.”

A nearly lifelong rock climber, David told me he started eNeRGy Rock Gym about 10 years ago. The bouldering gym was built from the ground up and has about 50 active members who come in to climb the walls.

“It’s a really good workout,” he said.

The gym used to have more drop-in climbers, but after the pandemic, David switched it to more of a “members only” facility, which reduces COVID exposure and has been popular with his current clients.

“It’s easier to know what to expect,” he said.

There are no organized, scheduled classes. Most climbers meet up with friends and climb together or else climb when they know others are around.

The climbing walls only go up about 15 or 20 feet. The floors are cushioned and there are mattress-like pads climbers use to help break their fall, but falling even from standing up is inherently dangerous.

Everyone is responsible for their own safety, is the mantra of the gym.

eNeRGy Rock Gym is a surreal wonderland of colors and shapes, representing different climbing problems. Each is graded on a V scale, which was created by climber John “Vermin” Sherman, kind of a hero in the rock climbing/bouldering world.

“The scale goes from 0, which is easy, to 16, which is crazy,” David said. “We go to about eight or nine here. Much beyond that and you’re some kind of elite athlete.”

After some paperwork and explanations about the gym, David showed me around and had me try a couple of V-0 climbing problems. I did OK on the problem designed for children and managed to climb upward on another basic problem, but was terrible at two others.

Most of my trouble was similar to what I run into at CrossFit. I sometimes try to use brute force to compensate for garbage technique.

I tended to bunch up as I climbed, was a little uncoordinated and basically wore myself out very quickly.

David gently corrected me when he could and told me to keep at it.

“You just need practice,” he told me. “The more time you spend working on a particular problem, the better you’ll get at it and what you learn from one, sometimes you can take to another.”

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or lynch@hdmediallc.com. Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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