Why are we so obsessed with climbing? Is that a bad thing?


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

Recently it was unkindly pointed out that I mostly have climbed on top rope, my few lead attempts have been on "warmups" for "real" climbers, and, I do not have the lifespan left to accomplish much as a climber.

An impartial observer (or a video camera) would show all this to be "true".

Yet.

I AM a climber.

I think about it constantly. All day. Every day. I sometimes lose sleep, even if it's just an idea for a route to set in the gym. I enjoy every bit of it, every opportunity I get, with every single one of you.

When I am moving on rock, my brain is all in. That brain is convinced the old body is moving gracefully, working out moves, thinking out the process, guarding the belay, doing things 60 year old ladies generally have no business mucking with.

That brain is all in on inhabiting a Climber, no matter the reality. 

And, I realized, it will be that way no matter what.

That confidence, lust, fearlessness, terror, and joy of muscle bone and tendons will always be there. Even when I can no longer climb.

Obsessed? You betcha. A tremendous gift for the last decades of a (hopefully) very long life.

Best to all my fellow climbers, OLH

Abram Herman · · Golden, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20

Unless you're an upper echelon world class climber, all of our projects are warmups for someone out there. Don't take grades too seriously. If you're having fun, you're doing it right.

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240

Obsession can be a good thing, or a bad thing.

If your obsession makes you eat healthier, be more active, get out into the outdoors and meet people, what's bad about it? Call it PASSION, not obsession. The same thing, really, but with positive connotations.   

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Thank you for your innermost thoughts, Helen. "Dear Diary"

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
FrankPS wrote:

Thank you for your innermost thoughts, Helen. "Dear Diary"

Ah Frank, "we" is inclusive of those who have nothing else to do than "waste" time on here. We are performing a public  service for our fellow cubicle dwellers. Are you the kettle or the pot?? I forget which of us is which. 

I truly love that my brain is an idiot and thinks my body is doing great stuff! It leaks out into day to day life all the time, and, surprise, surprise, sometimes the body really is managing better than should be expected.

Come climb sometime, sir! :-) OLH

Buddy Smith · · GA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 40

Rock on, Helen! You ARE a climber! There are always naysayers and those who condemn others who are less skilled or experienced. Whether it's a surf spot, golf course, Mtn bike trail, or even a bowling alley there's going to be some tool who doesn't remember when they began their journey. I'm with you, in that my joy in leading a seven is immense, and I toprope harder routes to get stronger, braver, and more skilled. We get up early, make the drive and the hike, endure the heat and the cold and the bugs and the scrapes and bruises and we climb. We're climbers. We think about it constantly. We look at buildings and overpasses and that blasted chunk of rock that they cut to put the freeway in and analyze lines. We read MP and watch videos and read reviews and fantasize about the dream rack and the dream crack instead of crushing candy in the grocery line. We climb. We're climbers. We can aspire for 5.11 and appreciate that our vids and pics of 5.7 conquests aren't going to make the cover of any mags, and that's fine. I climb for me. I love it. I'm obsessed with it again after a long hiatus. At 52 I know I'm not going to be doing twelves that I did when I was thirty and climbing four days a week. But I'm a climber. I climb. 

Rock on

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

Nicely written, Buddy!

What made me think about this actually, was a friend who was seriously bummed that someone bailed on him for this weekend. Climbing does absolutely nothing, really, except the thing itself.

Some pursue excellence in it, some maybe train hard enough to actually get the equivalent of a runners high. My suspicion is a great many are about like I am. We pursue it as often as we possibly can, and take what we can get.

And are stupidly happy deceiving ourselves in our illusions of badassedness, lol!

Best, H.

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348

Helen, whoever bothered to take the time and point out their feelings about your place in climbing is obviously weak of character and desperate to build themselves up by tearing others down. Sad really. 

Climbing is so personal and we all relate to it as it comes to us, no matter what age or your position on the path. Keep the experience close to your heart and take it as it comes.

The naysayers are only spewing because you are honest and true to your journey. And are willing to share it here. You rock girl.

Buddy Smith · · GA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 40

Thanks, Helen, you are truly the queen of MP! 

I don't believe for a second that we are deceiving ourselves with illusions of  badassedness! We ARE badasses! We're freaking climbers! Our badassitude is only compounded by our age. I'm a sommelier by trade, and people are aghast when they find out I climb. More so when I show photos. We're ahead of the game and living the dream! The dream of younger men and women perhaps, but living it nonetheless! We climb! I went to a gym with a girlfriend and her twenty something friends and after the formalities I said "I'll try that one (an overhanging gym 10 for sixty feet)." One girl said, "There's a nice one over here that YOU might enjoy (5.7 slab)." "Well, watch me on this other one and let's see how I do."

When I got back on the ground a couple of minutes later she said, "okay, you've done this before. Sorry." Loved it! Old ain't dead!

We are climbers. We ARE badasses. We climb. As hard and as often as we can possibly do it. Climbers climb. Haters hate. We celebrate. Cheers, angel. I will always celebrate your successes.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
Old lady H wrote:

Recently it was unkindly pointed out that I mostly have climbed on top rope, my few lead attempts have been on "warmups" for "real" climbers, and, I do not have the lifespan left to accomplish much as a climber.

If you like climbing and go climbing, you are a climber. 

As for warmups and accomplishments, if feels like an achievement is an achievement, be it 5.1 or 5.14. As long as you are striving to improve, you are achieving something.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
s.price wrote:

Helen, whoever bothered to take the time to point out their feelings about your place in climbing is obviously weak of character and desperate to build themselves up by tearing others down. Sad really. 

Climbing is so personal and we all relate to it as it comes to us, no matter what age or your position on the path. Keep the experience close to your heart and take it as it comes.

The naysayers are only spewing because you are honest and true to your journey. And are willing to share it here. You rock girl.

Actually they are going through what I'm sure is a hard stretch, enough so that I hope they're okay. I wish them well, and hope good things come their way. Including plenty of climbing, of course!

And, it is irrelevant anyway. That was the surprise I had when I realized being a climber, for me, had very little to do with ability or accomplishments. Good thing, too!

Thanks, sir, keep me posted if you head north.

Best, Helen

Adam Orton · · Moore · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0

The late great Lionel Terry "conquistadors of the useless" sums this up. Other than that I'm fucking stoked to see older people climbing! Let's me know that people are willing to forgo the standard sitting on the front porch at that age and would rather tie in and test their limits. That in itself is the magic of climbing and the passion people have for it. 

Just my .02. 

Stay safe! 

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348
Old lady H wrote:

Actually they are going through what I'm sure is a hard stretch, enough so that I hope they're okay. I wish them well, and hope good things come their way. Including plenty of climbing, of course!

And, it is irrelevant anyway. That was the surprise I had when I realized being a climber, for me, had very little to do with ability or accomplishments. Good thing, too!

Thanks, sir, keep me posted if you head north.

Best, Helen

I hope the best for them as well. Looks like mid sept. for being up north.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
s.price wrote:

I hope the best for them as well. Looks like mid sept. for being up north.

:-)

George Perkins · · The Dungeon, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 3,109

Label yourself what you will.  But what have you seen? As fun as this game is:

How close have you been to dying?

Have you seen your friend die in front of you?

Have you left your spouse (or they left you) because of a focus on climbing, splitting your family and losing someone who loved you?

What career advancement did you blow off because you wanted to climb more?

Quit while you're ahead. All those 5.12s (or whatever) you've sent don't mean shit to anyone except for you. If it's worth it to you... keep tying in. I did.

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5
Old lady H wrote:

I do not have the lifespan left to accomplish much as a climber.

What utter nonsense. None of us know how much lifespan we have left, but it will run out day by day, for all of us, whether we spend it doing what we love or not. 

What level of accomplishment is required before this person deems it worthwhile to learn a new skill? If you were only allowed to try new things if you could guarantee some (arbitrary) level of accomplishment, you'd never get off the couch at all. 

"It's too late, I'm already x years old, if I try to start learning this new skill, how old am I going to be when I finally learn it?" Same age you'd be if you didn't. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
George Perkins wrote:

Label yourself what you will.  But what have you seen? As fun as this game is:

How close have you been to dying?

Have you seen your friend die or nearly die in front of you?

Have you left your spouse (or they left you) because of a focus on climbing, splitting your family and losing someone who loved you?

What career advancement did you blow off because you wanted to climb more?

Quit while you're ahead. All those 5.12s (or whatever) you've sent don't mean shit to anyone except for you. If it's worth it to you... keep tying in. I did.

George, you are pretty much just talking about life, and the choices we make. 

The perspective from six decades is quite different than just shy of four, which is far from being twenty.

At sixty, I fully understand these choices and the ramifications. All of the choices you list, or something similar, have all happened, more than once, some many times.

The first time I should have been dead was more than forty years ago. The first time. 

But I am not. 

And, because of that, I don't give a shit what I send, I have a job, not a career, I stayed with the same man forty years whether he deserved that fate or not. 

The blood of others has been on my hands, and mine on others.

I've saved lives and been saved. It's what we do. 

Otherwise, you are may not be dead, but you are not living.

Best, Helen

Skye Swoboda-Colberg · · Laramie, Wyoming · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115
George Perkins wrote:

Label yourself what you will.  But what have you seen? As fun as this game is:

How close have you been to dying?

Have you seen your friend die in front of you?

Have you left your spouse (or they left you) because of a focus on climbing, splitting your family and losing someone who loved you?

What career advancement did you blow off because you wanted to climb more?

Quit while you're ahead. All those 5.12s (or whatever) you've sent don't mean shit to anyone except for you. If it's worth it to you... keep tying in. I did.

George, I am sorry for your loss. I know where you are coming from, and respect your message. This is scary but here it goes:

As close as it gets without dying, yes, no because I'm too self obsessed to be in a long term relationship, and a successful career in one of the two fields I got a BS in.

[Edit: The rest of this is not directed to you personally]

Climbing can be be a bad thing if you don't balance it with other aspects of your life. I have made personal, professional, and financial sacrifices in an effort to advance my climbing goals. I also know a bit about death. The mentor who brought me into the world of climbing killed himself, I climb to honor the memory of my uncle who also killed himself. I have had far more close calls during the first two years of trial and error then I will ever admit. People who you admire, professional guides, heroes, can all perish with the slip of a knot or the drop of a block. Or worse, for no reason other than life isn't fair.

Blind obsession can put you in a very vulnerable position if you lose your ability to climb due to an injury. Seeing death can also rob you of your passion. I've been visiting the forum heavily over the past month because I shattered my femur walking back to the car after a day of climbing. I would have died that day without WFR training and a swift helicopter rescue. What I learned from all this is you must climb for your self, no one else. But there is also more to life than climbing. I am still obsessed, and hope to continue to climb the rest of my life, but that isn't everything anymore. Don't put all your eggs in one basket like I did. You may find one day that you have sacrificed far more than you needed, and wish you had spent more time on other aspects of your life. As an old dirtbag under a bridge once told me, you don't have a problem until you have nothing left. So yes, you can be so obsessed with climbing that in can become unhealthy, just don't end up like the guy living under the bridge. I hear he discovered there's more to life than just climbing.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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