Climbing is for lovers, fighters, and fools. It has to be; climbing is a sport of movement and grace, of muscle and body control, and it just might be the most humbling pie ever served.
Maybe because I didn’t start getting on serious crag-rock until my early twenties, and not since prenatal like some professional climbers, or because even the smallest mountains bring me to my knees, but I will always consider myself an amateur climber. But the real reason I consider myself an amateur, and always will, is because every time I climb I am amazed at the new revelations, techniques, and general climbing philosophy I learn. And I never plan on quitting the life-long education.
As part of my job at Wilderness Adventure, I spend a good amount of time taking groups to ascend some vertical, and sometimes that is when I learn the most about the art of climbing. I generally spend my time belaying and beta-giving, but it allows me to step back from the rock, take my hands off the crimps, and see climbing from a light not too distant from my own; I get to watch climbing from a beginners view.
It can be hard to keep people motivated at an outdoor climbing sight. It’s easy to psyche people up, as it should be, the mere mention of actual rock climbing (like, with ropes and stuff?!) usually gets people out of their seats and ready to rock out.
But when we get to the site, everybody learns a quick lesson every climber knows, and I see as I lower one exhausted face after another; rock climbing is hard. The natural world doesn’t provide colored footholds, rain and shine isn’t controlled with a thermometer, and many people have fought it, but rock will always win (nice try paper…)
But alas, like our daily lives, the beauty lies within the struggle. Fall one hundred times and it doesn’t matter, the one hundredth and one time you nail it will become the first and lasting memory of the route. Those scrapes, bruises, and bloodied fingers you received from the day’s climb? Those don’t feel so bad under a good night’s sleep after a hard day’s work. The blisters will heal and the blood will congeal, and the new skin to appear will be tougher and stronger than before. But most of all, getting to the top, conquering your fears, and progressing one step at a time will fill your mind with the respect and courage you deserve.
A good friend and better climber once told me the person who is climbing the best is the person who is having the most fun. Sometimes the happiest person is the one who is getting up and down the routes in their sleep, but it could also be the person kicking it in the dirt, encouraging their friends, and enjoying the fresh air.
I hope all the people I bring climbing realize this mantra as I lower them from halfway up the wall and tell them they did a good job. I hope they understand as I do every time I get my butt kicked, is that climbing is no easy fight, that the struggle is all part of the game. But most of all I hope they get the climbing bug, that they get that move once previously thought of as out of reach, and they understand; climbing is for lovers.