“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Gil Bailie
No. Yes. Yesno. Sometimes. eh…
As ridiculous as this question may sound, it actually causes climbaholics like myself to sit and ponder at the deeper meanings of life. (At least until we reach the rocks, then we stop thinking and we climb). To someone who seldom climbs, examining the goodness of the adventure is completely unnecessary. If climbing is something that you do a couple of times a month with your friends and you enjoy then chances are, you don’t feel the need to overly examine the art of rock climbing. It’s when you reach the point of obsession that you will start to question exactly why you love the sport so much. Chances are, by the time you reach this point you’ll already be so addicted that even if you discovered the climbing gave you cancer, you wouldn’t be able to stop. Take for instance, me. I work for UTC as a rock wall manager and a member of the outdoors staff. What this means is that for about 20 hours a week I come into work and watch people climb, belay climbers, and set new routes. After I get off work, I probably won’t be leaving the gym anytime soon because I’m also co-president of the UTC climbing club (Chatt Nasty). Our 30+ members meet about once every two weeks to discuss upcoming competitions, to train, and to have fun (which we do very well). Then I go home to my 4 roommates who are all climbers (noticing a trend?). We then spend almost every night watching climbing videos and talking about the club (did I mention that 4 out of the 5 of us are on the board for the climbing club?). Then we go out on the weekends to work on our climbing projects. Needless to say, rock climbing is almost always on my mind. What’s so crazy about all of this is that I’m not the only one who lives like this.
So Does Climbing Make Me a Better Person?
(I had originally planned on writing a “No” section that I would follow with this “Yes” section, but all my “No” reasons were too easily opposed.) Climbing makes me a better person because it makes me a more dedicated, humble, and understanding individual. I become more dedicated in the time I take training and learning about the rock in order to send my project. I become more humble because I am continuously reminded that I’ll never conquer the mountain, but rather the mountain will allow me to make a visit. And I become more understanding because I finally comprehend how a single hobby or past time can completely infatuate a person. Not to mention, climbing fuels some fire deep inside that I can neither explain or understand.
I understand the outside perspective of rock climbing and the way that people don’t quite “get it.” It must seem rather repetitive and un fulfilling to watch a boulderer continue to struggle on a single move for weeks at a time, especially when that move is 2 feet off the ground and there’s quite obviously an easier way to do the climb. The only thing I really know to compare this to is golf. It may sound ridiculous but bare with me. My parents love golf, my dad even jokes that golf is what kept my parents together all these years. My family loves golf because it’s an escape. It is a physical sport that allows us to get out of the house and enjoy nature in a way that encourages competition and more importantly, self growth. Granted, climbing is a much rougher and more physically demanding sport, but the analogy remains.
In my mind, the only real danger from climbing (besides the obvious physical risk) is that of letting one’s identity become too intrinsically tied to a sport. I should be the first to admit that I take great pride in being called “a climber.” I feel the reputation proceeds me especially around the campus of UTC. It’s not that I’m the best climber on campus (not by one hell of a long shot!) but I’m a common face since I work at the on campus gym. However, if I allow myself to base my existence and justify my dominion on the earth around rock climbing than I am surely setting myself up for failure. Not unlike how a marathon runner will one day only be able to hike a few kilometers, a v13 climber will one day not be able to climb v5. The point is, climbing is what we do, not who we are.
If you want to learn more about me and my friends’ rock climbing adventures, check out my newly developing climbing blog.
“As far as I’m concerned, if someone eliminates the mental part of climbing, then we might as well all go play miniature golf.” — Greg Opland.