Phew, been a while, huh folks? I’ve had a busy few months, with the holidays and graduating from college and starting my own freelancing business. Hopefully you’ll give me a pass on the absence. But I’m back! And I’d like to talk to you about my newest love, climbing.
So as many of you know, I’m big into trying new things. Whether it be trying corn and hake chowder with Colleen (I learned that hake is a fish) or trying surfing for the first time or writing or anything else, if it gets offered up or pops into my head I’m probably into it.
Climbing popped into my head a long time ago, but I finally acted on it recently.
It was all a part of a natural progression I think. You start off hiking a few trails, then you go a little bigger, then you mix in a “death march” hike or two, then you buy a surfboard and get into that, then winter comes and you’re too big of a softie to brave the 35 degree water or the -20 degree peaks, so you look for indoor activities.
However at this point it’s too late. Once you let a cat outside, it’s an outdoor cat for life. I can only beat SuperMario64 so many times, can only wash the dishes so many times, can only read so many books, before I kind of go a lotta bit crazy.
Backtrack a minute.
Climbing has been on the fringes of my mind for a long time. But here’s the funny thing about climbing in comparison to all my other past times, it requires a partner. And not in the way where you should never hike alone because of ((reasons)), but in the way that if you don’t have a partner, you can’t do it. You need a belayer.
Belay is French for “I’ll hold the other end of the rope and catch you if you fall” I believe. I only took one semester of French though. So unless you want to climb without a rope, which is generally considered a bad idea and is not OSHA approved, you need a belayer.
Now here’s one of the cool things about having a girlfriend. Besides making delicious meals and making sure the apartment doesn’t smell like an armpit, she can be your belayer! Of course, a good buddy or a trustworthy looking stranger can also work as a belayer, but it’s nice knowing if she drops me she can’t run away from my injured, crumpled body because we live together and crippling me would put a strain on our relationship.
So I’ve got a partner, I’ve got the time and money for the intro course at our local gym, let’s do it. Intro class goes really well, Colleen actually enjoys it as much as I do, we’re all set to climb El Capitan in a few months right?
Well here’s the funny thing about trying new things. You learn a lot about yourself. I learned that, sometimes, I’m scared of heights . Which really hindered my aspirations to be a professional climber by next summer.
There have been times, on one specific route in the gym featuring purple holds and a slight overhang, where I get about halfway up a wall and lock up. I obsess over technique, things like footwork and energy conserving, I’ve gotten a lot stronger as a climber, but my roadblock on this route is all mental. I sit up there, couple dozen feet off the ground, legs shaking like damn Elvis, sweating like a pig, frozen on a foothold a little wider than a dime, psyched out.
I hate it. I absolutely hate it. This route at the gym doesn’t have a name, isn’t rated as particularly difficult, isn’t any harder then any other route I’ve done before, isn’t significant or notable in any way. But it dominates me mentally. I have nightmares about locking up on “that purple route”, my harness or the rope snapping (which never happens anywhere), falling forever, etc.. As soon as I get off that route, I calm myself down and can climb just about any other route in the gym.
I do that route at least four times a week. I could skip it, and still progress and get better as a climber. I could never even look at that damn purple route again. But four times a week, I ruin my perfectly good climbing session by doing my Elvis impersonation 50 feet off the ground. And I’ll keep doing it, until I get to the top without even a hint of struggle.
So, why climb? Because climbing challenges me on a mental plane that I can’t find anywhere else. Surfing is amazing, but I’ve never had issues with that mentally. Big backpacking trips require a logistical kind of mental exercise, but that’s fun to me. Climbing demands a clear mind, a cool mind. It forces you to quite your body’s natural instinct of “what are you doing up here, get down dumb ass the ground is safe” and move on upwards.
So I’ll keep plugging away at that damn purple route until I conquer not only the route itself, but my own fears. And after that I’ll find another route that scares the bejeesus out of me. And I’ll climb that one until I get it. And again and again.
In closing, I encourage you to seek out new things to try. It’s been the year 2017 for about ten minutes, so it’s a good time to say I’m going to learn _____ this year, or I’m going to do this in 2017. Not a New Year’s Resolution because we all now those are played out. Just something that’s been on the fringe for a while, and you’re ready to bring to the forefront.
It’s about noon on a Monday, so it’s time to meet Colleen at the rock gym. I’m off to try out that nameless purple route. I’ll probably name it “Hound Dog” or “The Jailhouse Rock” in homage to Elvis himself.
Until next time friends.
Special thanks to Mom for the only real photo of me climbing thus far.
Interested in trying it yourself? Let me know and I’ll take you, or go through the fine folks at Salt Pump Climbing in Scarborough.