I need to climb to live, I need to climb to be free, and I need to climb to be happy. That’s the short answer. My friend Lou asked me this question the other day when I was having a particularly rough time with some things that were going on in my climbing world. He messaged me, “Chris, I want you to ask yourself why you need to climb. I ask this question with good intent.” He wanted me to focus on what was important and push all that other garbage aside. It was a good wake-up to holding onto what’s important in life.
First and foremost, climbing saved my life. It saves my life every day. I was suicidal for over 15 years, had been hospitalized in the inpatient psych ward over two dozen times, had over 50 ECT treatments, and still have the chronic and severe PTSD from serving in the military as a machine gunner in the Middle East that brought that on. I’m on a lot of medication for that, and the medications are doing what they are supposed to. The problem is that the medications can only do so much. When my psychiatrist, a former rock climber himself, suggested that I go to the local climbing gym and check it out on 30 Apr 2016, it was an instant addiction. Why? Because it worked. What it worked for was pushing all of that traumatic wreckage and anger and guilt and shame and pain and fear – the whole mess – out of my mind and allowing me to experience happiness again. Happiness was something that I hadn’t truly felt in over a decade and a half, and suddenly, while climbing, my mind was quiet and free. I felt joy in those movements, one hold at a time, and the intense focus that cleared my mind of all the bloodshed and horrors of the past. While climbing at the crag with AJ and Emily in late spring of last year (May 2017) at The Island outside Cody, WY, I experienced pure movement and flow for the first time. It was heavenly. Every movement, one after another, came as quickly as it went, and they were all perfect, cycling through my intensely focused mind as I passed over and up the rock. No fear. No pain. Just happiness and exhilaration, one calm breath after another, with pure movement happening almost automatically… That’s why I need to climb. Every day of my life, I need to climb!