From – an essay on “Who Is A Climber?”

Quote from it: “It is sustenance as necessary as the air we breathe. Even in the midst of long absences, climbing remains a preoccupation of our thoughts.”

1st Half of Toxic Shock at IndexIt’s an interesting article. A twee bit dramatic but it touches a lot on the constant struggle in my head. I conflict with calling myself “A climber” vs. saying, “Eh, I kind of climb.” I enjoy climbing/bouldering at the gym 1-2x a week, enjoy the gear, getting out with friends, meeting new friends and touching real rock. In fact, I stood in the rain this past weekend at Index,watching guys aid and free climb (and surprised myself by free climbing up wet rock too)  just because I knew I needed to be by some real rock because I’m already getting bored at the climbing gym.

But I don’t eat/drink/breath/think/absorb/digest climbing like most of my climb friends. I don’t have a stack of guide books next to my bed, I don’t constantly talk about it everyday. I don’t keep my weekends open just so I can climb. I don’t spend my evenings pouring through web site after web site and forum after forum researching routes and gear. I don’t have a climbing training plan.

To me, that is a climber. At least, that’s from what I have witnessed from climbing friends, especially that one super intense climbing partner, who is doing it all the time, come hell or high water. The only thing that will MAYBE stop him is the weather.

This fanatical attitude has really bothered me the past few years. I used to think that if you weren’t that way, you weren’t a true climber and that I didn’t belong in this community.

But now – I don’t care. Why do we need a definition of who makes a true climber or not? Do you enjoy it and are you safe? I don’t care that I’m not pouring over books,  that I’m not constantly talking about routes and climbs and techniques that few know about, that I’m not drooling over web sites and films.

I used to think that my simple answer of “I climb because it’s fun and I like the people” wasn’t enough. But since meeting new partners this summer, I’ve learned these days that I don’t need to try and come up with extended technical reasons and just simply be true to myself. If I want to learn a technique or progress, I’ll pick up a book. If the lead class at the gym freaks me out, don’t finish it. I’ll study my girlfriends’ moves. If I just want to traverse around the gym wall all night, I will. I’ll watch a video or two on YouTube occasionally. I’ll gather folks up to head the latest climbing film fest. And sure, I’ll admit, I’ve been doing a little more of that lately and gee, go figure, I’m able to climb a little harder and route opps open up a little. I’ll take every little victory I can get, but at my own pace.

Folks are always talking about climbing the rock because “it’s there.” And going on and on about beautiful rock and beautiful cracks and gorgeous lines and blah blah blah. Honestly, I don’t get it (except if my shoes will stick to it or not). And I realize, for everyone, it’s different. I’m just a very in-the-moment and visual person. If I’m at a crag with folks and see something interesting, I’ll say, “don’t tell me the rating, just tell me the draws and route description”, grab my anchor and go for it.

But I guess if there is that ONE thing that climbing does for me –  it’s not the rock, it’s not the route, it’s not gear used – it’s simply “the getting out.” Did I really push myself on that super hard 5.9 or basked in the sun belaying folks all day and playing camp/belay mom? Who cares. I just know that when I come home on Sunday nights, I know I didn’t think about anything else other than being out and supporting friends and feeding them black tea and goodies and pawing at some rock.

My first climbing partner is intense. He is the epitome of who and what I thought a climber should be. And I have resented climbing in the past because I didn’t feel like how I thought I should have felt about the sport. But since then, after meeting others, it doesn’t have to be that intense. Chilling on bouldering pads, spotting folks, cooking food, starting a project, just being out is all that matters. He once said that even if he was injured and couldn’t climb, he’d still come out to the rock because he enjoys the environment so much. I thought that sounded ridiculous at the time, but I see what he means and even agree with him (Or not – the temptation would be too great).

Bottomline? Intense Climber and I are going to Joshua Tree for four days, suckers. And we can’t flippin’ wait.