Climbing can be many things to many people. It can be a means to and end or the everything in life for each individual who chooses to try it. Some like it and some do not. There are those who stay with it for a lifetime, those who stay with it for a season, and those who do not even tarry with it. All of that is fine. Some of climbing’s most important lessons are found in the experience of choosing it, chasing it (or not), and the duration for which you have been involved with it. There are technical skills in climbing. Those are not the lessons I speak of here. That which I speak of here are the the life lessons that enrich a person’s soul for all time. Allow me to elaborate.
Climbing, for me, is an identity and not just an activity. I am a climber–that is what I say to people who ask what I do, which usually strikes up an interesting conversation of some sort. It is not for conversation’s sake that I say that, though. I am a climber. Climbing is embedded in the core of my being, and I feel lost if I do not climb. I felt lost all my life until I was directed toward climbing. When I found it, I knew I had found it, and I have lived and breathed climbing since that point in time now knowing who I am.
Climbing is my passion along with being my identity. I climb, yes, and I also write about climbing. I have this blog, which has led to a freelance writing opportunity for me to write about climbing for a professional website! This could potentially turn into further opportunities to climb and test gear as well. We will see where it goes. All of this is based on climbing and being a climber. Life is falling into place because I have found my place.
Climbing is a path to lifelong friendships and relationships based on trusting someone else with your very life. It involves integrity and honesty. It involves caring enough about the seriousness of the situation to carry on in spite of yourself for another, and in some cases, the courage and integrity to lay down your ego and call off a trip or step back from a belay because you know you are not 100% and do not want to endanger another person’s life.
Climbing develops vision, creativity, and perseverance within you. It is an undertaking that proves your determination in short order the moment you enter the world of the steep. Climbing brings out the fight, the grit, and the fire in a person as they work their way ever upward on the wall, whether it is bouldering or roped climbing, rock or ice, sport or traditional, amateur or professional. Perhaps a moment or two of euphoria and absolute presence in the moment will grace you with their passing as you climb–this is your reward. If you have prepared, you will never fail. You may not ascend the problem or route, but you have not failed because you have gained wisdom from the experience.
Climbing is something you must actually do to gain wisdom and experience from. Your body cannot be properly trained for climbing without actually climbing, and the wisdom that you gain cannot ever be learned so well in any other way except by actually experiencing it–discovering it for yourself–through climbing. The discovery of your own abilities and potential as you climb is exciting, inspiring, terrifying, and wonderful all at the same time. Your body can be experiencing a survival reaction while your mind is enjoying a state of bliss while climbing. The only other time I have experienced this type of dissociation was in combat. Trust me–climbing is a much better venue for these types of opposites to intermingle. I never felt bliss in combat. I climb to conquer the demons that possessed me during that time and have found that climbing offers me release from that prison of rage and horrific memories. As I climb more, I find that I can manage the beast that is PTSD a bit better, mostly by climbing even more.
The lessons learned from climbing will last a lifetime and direct your life toward happiness if you allow them to. All you have to do is keep trying and stay positive. A positive mindset is critical to success in climbing. Your mind will cause you to fail at an ascent long before your body gives out, and can carry you far beyond what your body is capable of if it is in the right frame of reference. Your mind is incredibly powerful and can do amazing things. Climb! Take that mind of yours for a spin!