Ready to climb at 0240 hrs…

I woke up from a weird dream (not a nightmare, for once) involving a college class with Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and a pile of data on Montana wildlife’s tails (yes, creatures with tails – their tails).  Yes, I’m glad I woke up!  Haha, I haven’t had an actual dream in a long time, and usually they’re weird like that…  Too much fettuccine alfredo last night, I guess?  Anyway, I got up at 0240 hrs and showered.  I got here, to my blog, at 0313 hrs, and now I’m ready to go climbing.  I’ve been ready to go climbing since I woke up!  Anyway, the gym doesn’t open until 0600 hrs, but I have to be across the front yard before 0530 hrs to avoid the sprinklers, so I have a little while to spend with you, my readers.  I want to talk about a subject that is maybe a little uncomfortable to some and all-too-familiar to others in climbing.  Drumroll please…

I want to explore what role climbing plays, or not, in our spiritual welfare.  For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience with a higher power.  For others, it’s more just contact with the rock or ice.  For still others, it’s a look at and an awareness of themselves.  One thing that all of these have in common is a deeper connection with something primal.  Some would call it spiritual, or of the spirit of your “self”.  There’s no doubt that there’s something inside us that constitutes “life” and “personhood”, and all living things have that special something that is “life”, even slugs and mosquitoes and blades of grass.  Maybe that’s the connection right there.  Climbing connects us to the natural world, whether inside our minds in the climbing gym or through the reality of the crag you’re climbing or the ice you’ve just kicked your crampon into.  I hope that every gym climber gets to experience outdoor climbing at least once, even if they don’t think they’re going to like it or are afraid to, because that’s where things get primal.  That’s where things get spiritual for some.  Outdoor climbing is where the connection is made between you and that something that is our lifeblood.

I remember how excited I was to be climbing in the bouldering gym my first 11 months of climbing.  I also remember how awe-inspiring and absolutely life-changing my first outdoor roped climb was!  It was a lesson in challenging death, the interaction between me and the rock, and what climbing really was…  It was fantastic!!!  Outdoor climbing touched and awakened a fire within me, and brought out my true grit in a way that nothing else could, and my spirit soared high for days!!!  My psychiatrist was worried that I was having a manic episode, I was so high on the endorphins and “feel-good” chemicals my brain had produced!!!  I’d had no fear at all during my first (or subsequent) outdoor climbing experiences.  I get near the rock and something deep and primal transforms me into a warrior that knows no defeat, nor can I.  I don’t go in blind or unprepared, and my spirit has no fear of it, either.  It’s incredible to climb on real rock and connect so directly and intimately with the rock that you become part of it – part of nature itself.  You feel the grit and the grime and the sweat.  You hear the beating of your heart pumping the blood through your veins and feel the pump in your muscles, the strength and weakness of your grip and position at the same time, and know that time is both your friend and your enemy during an ascent.  You focus on only the next hold, and climb, upward, onward, toward the top, one hold at a time…  There is no thought as to whether or not you will make the ascent.  You are in the moment – just you and the rock.  You seek an even more rare experience, the experience of freeing your awareness to allow your body to do what it knows how to do and to move with that pure movement across and up the rock face – there is no thought, only bliss and euphoria.  Then you’re at the top.  You’ve sent the route!  That experience, for me and for every other climber I know, is the coveted experience.  You can’t seek it, though, or you’ll never find it.  You have to let go of the pursuit of it to experience it.  For me, it’s the most alive I could ever feel when that happens.  Some might call it spiritual.  Some might not.  One thing’s for sure, though.  Once you’ve felt it the first time, you’ll want more…

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