what does climbing mean to you?


Original Post
Christopher Smaling · · Bloomington, IN · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

I'm at somewhat of a crossroads in my life, and have recently been thinking quite a lot about why I am so hopelessly infatuated with this "sport".

I found climbing as an 18 year old kid travelling around alone in India (long story). I had heard of this bouldering destination called Hampi from a guy I met while backpacking in the Himalayas, and after it got cold in the mountains, I split for the south and quickly found myself in a place that's as close to shangri-la as I've ever seen.

A kind stranger hooked me up with a pair of shoes and a chalkbag, and I spent the next two months thrutching my way up the classic v0s of Hampi, and climbing the moderate sport routes of Badami. I eventually came back to the states, got a job for a while, and saved some money. At this point, though, I was much more "bum" than "climber", and I managed to get myself fired from the REI in Boulder (another long story). I bought a plane ticket to Vancouver that night, found myself a nice cave to live out of in Squamish, and spent most of the next year hitchhiking from spot to spot, climbing my heart out, and living the American dirtbag life to its fullest.

This time was, for me, the absolute most formative period in my life. I went from being a 5.8 gumby to a relatively competent 5.11 crack climber. I learned the true value of a dollar (when your net worth is $16, shopping for groceries gets interesting). I found myself pushing myself to my limit day after day, then coming back to a group of people who I loved and could truly say I belonged to, laughing my way through the night, then waking it up and doing it all again.

But this came to an end. Eventually I ran out of money, got a shitty job, and out as an act of sheer desperation out of being forcibly "promoted" to the position of Janitor at the Tuolumne Meadows lodge, decided to return to school.

Now I'm back in Indiana, in the midst of cornfields, 4 hours away from the nearest "decent climbing", and my social life is far smaller than it has ever been. On a daily basis I find myself questioning what I am doing and who I am trying to become. I miss the single minded clarity that being a rock bum provided, and more than anything, I miss the community of adventure seekers, misfits, scoundrels, and heroes that are scattered in vans throughout North America.

tl;dr:

Rock climbing gave me direction, taught me how to work towards my dreams, and gave me a community of like minded people. What has it done for you?

Jason Young · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,000

Get your ass back to the rocks my friend!

Don Ferris · · Eldorado Springs · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 0

I'm in a similar position. I camped and scrambled all my life from the mountains of Colorado to the Utah desert but didn't find "real" climbing until I was 19. Before I was 21 I quit my job and lived on the beach in Hawaii for a while. While the adventure level was high, I didn't climb a lot of rocks. It was in Hawaii I realized I didn't want to spend more than a few days without climbing. When I ran out of money a fled back to the mainland, got a job but lived out of my car for two and a half years and climbed and climbed.

Now, I'm stuck between a straight (well paying) 9-5 job, a girlfriend that's too damn good/good looking for me and the life that truly yearn for: traveling and climbing until my knees no longer work. At the moment I'm losing the battle and for the foreseeable future, im a weekend warrior.

Danny Sandoval · · LA, CA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

Man thats a cheesy title but honestly I love reading about peoples stories. Feels like your sitting around a campfire shooting the shit. Its something to think about when its raining out and all the rock around you is sandstone...

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 95
Christopher Smaling wrote:Now I'm back in Indiana, in the midst of cornfields, 4 hours away from the nearest "decent climbing", and my social life is far smaller than it has ever been.
So move somewhere more fulfilling. You don't have to go back to the dirtbag life if you don't want to.

We all make decisions in our lives, and some doors get opened, other closed. I climbed for close to a decade, got injured playing racquetball, got out of the habit of going to the gym, and then I got comfortable and fat. I went from 170 lbs to 220 and stopped climbing for a decade. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, lost 20 pounds in 9 weeks of chemo, another 40 pounds in a month of radiation, and finally stabilized my weight at 160. But I beat it (5 years next January), and right when I started to feel solid again, a brand new rock climbing gym opened up nearby. I joined on opening day and am in there 3-4 days a week and am back climbing outside with new friends on weekends.

Some of my absolute best friends are in this new group, and I like being (one of) the old curmudgeon in the gym, at least compared to the majority of 20-something year old kids pulling hard on plastic. When I am 4 pitches up on a trad route, my partners have my life in their hands, or theirs in mine. I love being outside, I love doing something hard, I love solving puzzles (and climbing definitely satisfies this itch), I love elevation and exposure, I love being with friends, I love pushing my comfort zone, I love being in a position where I just can't quit (OK, I am never so crazy I won't retreat if I absolutely have to), and I love being able to tell stories about it after.
patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 0
Christopher Smaling wrote:Now I'm back in Indiana, in the midst of cornfields, 4 hours away from the nearest "decent climbing", and my social life is far smaller than it has ever been. On a daily basis I find myself questioning what I am doing and who I am trying to become. I miss the single minded clarity that being a rock bum provided, and more than anything, I miss the community of adventure seekers, misfits, scoundrels, and heroes that are scattered in vans throughout North America...
Sounds like you still need to find your direction and your place. It isn't necessarily being a climbing bum, in fact many climbing bums simply haven't yet found theirs. But it sounds pretty evident that your current place doesn't suit.

Climbing (or focus on any activity or goals) can help fill a hole in your life. But for most people it won't fill it completely. A balanced life suits most of us better than a single focus, single passion life.

Christopher Smaling wrote:What has it done for you?
Broadened me as a person. Taught me skills and brought me into a world of like minded people. Improved my physique and given me a better hobby. Though, it is only one piece of the bigger puzzle.
that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0
Christopher Smaling wrote:What has it done for you?
Climbing has given me drive, focus and my entire life.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Well, geez, you're 20 years old. Which means you are in one of the most fun, and difficult stretches you'll ever go through. Young twenties is super rough, IMO, but it is also incredibly cool. Hang in there, you'll look back when you are an old man of 27 and shake your head. Be kind and gentle on yourself, and know that there's a whole heck of a lot of us out here who "been there, done that" and are here to cheer you on.

Much is going to change over the years. Very, very little of it is irrevocable (like having a child), so keep it in perspective. This is when you have our full support to thrash around some, hang dog a bit, even say "TAKE!!!" when ya hafta.

Best, OLD lady H. a.k.a. Helen

keithconn · · LI, NY · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 0

Kinda sounds like you asked and answered your question all in one.

keithconn · · LI, NY · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 0

Matt. Keep going! All of us hope to be so strong!

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Yes, Matt, yay!

Matt expresses a lot of what climbING is for me, the puzzle of it, friends, outdoors, all of that, but what really resonates is not the ING, but being a climbER. I've only astonished myself a very few times (3 or 4 tops), but discovering "climber" was part of who I am, at age 57 no less, was one of those times.

Even if I never had the chance to go climbing again, I will always be a climber. Sounds to me like you are too.

By the way, the first time I learned what stuff I was made of, was when I was 19.

Helen

Alex Kowalcyk · · La Conner, WA · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 50
patto wrote: Sounds like you still need to find your direction and your place. It isn't necessarily being a climbing bum, in fact many climbing bums simply haven't yet found theirs. But it sounds pretty evident that your current place doesn't suit. Climbing (or focus on any activity or goals) can help fill a hole in your life. But for most people it won't fill it completely. A balanced life suits most of us better than a single focus, single passion life. Broadened me as a person. Taught me skills and brought me into a world of like minded people. Improved my physique and given me a better hobby. Though, it is only one piece of the bigger puzzle.
^^^ This, excellent response.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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