I’ve sporadically climbed for the last 3 years.
Every time I go, I am humbled by the sport, amazed (as I am with CrossFit and watching the Games every year) at the human capacity to get work done, and motivated to improve my fitness in other areas to improve my performance in this particular type of physical activity.
This past weekend, I went outdoor climbing with some amazing ladies and a handful of gentlemen. I’ve only ever climbed outdoors once before, and I sustained a shoulder injury since the last time I went. I was curious how it would go, and eager to see what I was capable of doing. San Diego experienced the wettest winter I’ve seen since living here. The mountains definitely reflected that – it was so beautiful and green. It also meant more poison oak to look out for! We got our gear and did some ice breakers. Hiking in was fun and a little sketchy right as we approached the crag. The guides gave a refresher on figure 8 knots and belaying technique. Then it was time to climb! I’m usually very much about just jumping into things and learning on the fly. With climbing, there’s always a little bit of a mental hurdle to overcome when thinking about and trusting a rope and harness to carry YOUR LIFE. There’s a certain balance and respect for both fear and bravery when doing anything outdoors, especially climbing. I watched a few of the ladies climb, then decided it was time to just do it and give it a shot.
Climbing can be very frustrating and testing for me. I don’t do it often enough to feel proficient, which is my own “fault,” but even hearing from experienced climbers – this sport is very much about problem solving and being present. When climbing indoors, I’d often get frustrated if the color coded holds were out of reach, or required a strange body contortion or grip to access. Once I was back climbing outside, I suddenly longed for the clear cut paths that gyms can provide. Sure, the outdoor wall had some chalk marks from previous climbers for guidance, but there is no one “right” path to take. Certain areas were even featureless, and they stumped me. All I could do was literally stop and laugh because I truly could not see a single place to move my hands or feet to for the next move. When you’re up there, it’s just you and the wall. You are fully and ultimately in control of deciding where you want to go.
This past year has provided me with plenty of opportunites for growth, reflection, and jumping whole-heartedly into new adventures. My experience climbing outdoors felt like a perfectly timed, serendipitous alignment of my mentality lately. Time and space can provide such significant and meaningful perspectives, if one is courageous and willing to dig deeply into the truths that they can hold. It was fascinating to be the climber and then be the belayer. Sometimes as the climber you’re too close to the wall to be able to see all the options available to you. You’re blinded and limited by your own proximity to the “problem.” Sometimes your belayer can offer huge support by pointing out something that is so blatantly obvious to them from their perspective on the ground. My third climb of the day was particularly challenging. I had a hard time figuring out where to put my hands and feet; I couldn’t even get off the ground and fully onto the wall. So I tried a different starting point. And I STILL couldn’t make any progress. Finally, my new friends suggested yet another starting point. This third approach was challenging, but I eventually got my body completely off the ground and began the ascent. There were a few other tricky spots along the route I was creating, but I got it eventually. I felt proud of myself for my perserverance, and grateful for my new, supportive, and encouraging friends.
Similar to a tough climb, big events happen in life and challenge you mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s been interesting to observe that the experience and understanding of these events shift as time progresses. Yes, it is important to be present with the here and now, but it can also be helpful to think about the future and how much these changes will truly matter in, say, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, 2 decades. It is also helpful, as time progresses, to look back on the experience in order to glean wisdom and learn as much as possible from the ever-unfolding story of your life. Making connections with your past and present can help guide you in where you want to go for your future. That tough third climb felt so representative of my past year – pain, frustrations, overcoming obstacles, analyzing things from many different angles, carving my own path… and ultimately arriving at my own truth feeling exhausted, energized, and grateful. I tackled a bear of a mountain this past year. This coming year, I am aware of the challenges I need to face head on to reach the next level in my life. I know it won’t be easy, but I also know it’s necessary and I’m hoping it’ll be wortwhile in the end. I’m ready for this rumble.
I’m interested in a lot of sports and activities, so it will be fun to discover how I balance all of these PLUS climbing in the years to come. I was reminded of how challenging and rewarding climbing can be. I’m excited and ready to continue healing my shoulder, to strengthen my agility, and to keep unleashing my own path of the full, honest, vulnerable expression of my truth in this lifetime. CLIMB ON!