This seems to be a very common question in the climbing world. What is it that draws people into rock climbing?
The answers can be endless but lets see if we can tackle a few of the reasons why people would want to dabble in such risky behaviors as some would say. These are observations that I have felt or seen in my short time of climbing.
Here is a little warning beforehand.
I am very passionate about climbing. This will be a lot of writing, and realism. When I am climbing, I am at my very best self and extremely happy and excited. So there may be quite a bit off rambling. Pardon me for all this talk!
In the begining..
A little back story to myself and climbing. I started climbing about 3 years ago, and I have been climbing non stop ever since. I started out bouldering which is a type of climbing where you climb without a rope not very high off the ground (maybe 10 feet or so unless you are highballing). The moves are difficult and powerful and if you fall you have a very small chance of getting hurt when bouldering in a gym.
After about 6 months I started climbing in a different gym using ropes and other gear. Fast forward to now and it has been an all consuming part of my life since I visited that gym. Not a day goes by that I dont want to climb. I have expanded my mission in climbing to become great at rock climbing in outdoor areas. I am currently climbing 5.11a in the gym and on-sighting 5.10b outside. 5.10c is my limit outside currently.
Why do people rock climb?
1. It’s something new to try for an outdoor adventure seeker.
I have been hiking for years now and the more hiking i have done, the more natural places I have seen. After climbing in the climbing gym and a few outdoor climbing excursions, every time I go outside and see rock, I wonder if it is climbable and if I can climb it. My heart yearns to be on the side of steep rock and suspended several feet above the ground.
2. Climbing is therapy.
I can’t speak for everyone in the climbing scene but I would bet if you asked around, many climbers would tell you that they love climbing for the mental aspects.
When you take up rock climbing you quickly learn that it is more of a mental game than a strong man’s game. Many times climbing over 5.7, 5.8, or 5.10c at least for me requires some thought. If you are strong enough you can muscle your way up, but to conserve energy, the best thing for climbing is to have great technique. To have great technique you have to get out of your head and focus.
The only thoughts in your head should be where is my next foot placement at, where am I going to grab another hold, where is a great position to hang in one spot comfortably in order to clip the next bolt. I find personally that climbing is therapy. When I am climbing and on the wall there is nothing else in the world to think about. All I can think of is the climb. There is nothing else going through my head.
Climbing saves me when I am having trouble in life, or frustrated with anything that isn’t going the way I want it to go. It pulls me out of my mental space of daily frustrations, anger, doubt, sadness, and anything else that can bring me down.
“Climbing is the purest form of therapy I have ever encountered. “
When I finish a climbing session I feel that I can converse more effectively, stay calm and asses everything going on in my current life situations. It helps me to break things up in life one thing at a time. Just like a climbing sequence is one hold and one foot placement at a time.
3. It gets you fit.
If you have ever rock climbed before you will find out quickly how “not in shape” you are. Look at any picture of a rock climber and you will notice a strong lean body. If it takes you and consumes you and you want to become a better and better climber, then you will realize fast that you need to get in better shape. You may think, I need to get stronger, I need to up my cardiac fitness levels, I need to improve my core strength, and expand my mental clarity and calmness.
Rock climbing is a full body workout. If you don’t utilize your entire body and mind, you aren’t going to get the send on the really difficult climbs. You won’t be able to push past your limits and push harder grades. This is one of the major things in rock climbing is to constantly progress. Just like in life, you should always be trying to progress in a positive and upwards direction.
4. You will make new friends quickly.
Something about being suspended 30 feet or more above ground creates a sense of trust and instant friendship in some one you may hardly know. At first, meeting people in the climbing gym may seem quite intimidating because they may be better than you, or stronger, or make a difficult climb for you, look so easy. Really, most climbers are just as excited to see their peers succeed as much as they are as excited to succeed themselves.
I love seeing others send a route that they have never done. Even seeing my friends in the gym or outdoors complete a route gives me pure joy because each new climb is an accomplishment. While it doesn’t mean anything at the moment in life, a goal is a goal, and when achievements are met, they deserve recognition and celebration.
5. You are joining a secret society.
It’s not really a secret society but sometimes it can feel that way. Being around people who don’t climb every day makes me feel that I am part of something big, yet so small. I work in an emergency room with a lot of dirfferent people from many different backgrounds. I have met very few that actually climb and take it seriously.
The people I have met that climb, we instantly connect. We have a secret language talking about climbing, rappelling, climbing 5.10c, 5.11a etc., and working on my finger strength, side pulls, underclings, pulling roofs, Honnold, Sharma, Caldwell, Bacher, Robbins, Potter, Chouinard, Black Diamond, DMM, Mammut, lead climbing, quick draws.
If you climb you know how to speak this language. There is so much to climbing and there is so much to learn about climbing, past pro climbers and new pro climbers. All the “secret” climbing areas, and all of the gear that is always changing. Climbing in a way, is a secret club that once you join you cannot leave. It is pure amazingness!
6. You are combining the mind and body.
Not only does climbing offer great physical health benefits, but it can help heal the mind. I have read several articles related to mental health and climbing. It seems to be a common thing that rock climbing can help in reducing stress, and depression. It also helps to strengthen the mind and body connection.
When you are climbing and sketched out and fear starts to creep in to your mind, it can negatively affect how well you climb. Learning to recognize fears and nervousness and breathing through and making an effort to let your mind take over your body is a difficult thing to do. It takes practice and logic and creates great growth between the mind and your body.
7. It is a lot of fun and safer than most extreme sports.
Rock climbing is the most fun thing that I can think of to do in my spare time and once you have most of the gear to climb in the gym or get outside and climb its not to expensive of a hobby.
Although it may seem dangerous, climbing is probably the safest activity that I have ever partaken in. Coming from a background where I love extreme sports, I have gotten hurt the least while climbing. I played football when I was a kid, constantly injuring myself. I have ridden dirt bikes, skateboarded, snowboarded, done some cliff jumping, all of these sports have created more injuries for me over the years and in the 3 years I have been climbing, not one major injury. Knock on wood.
As long as you take the time to learn the safety aspect of climbing, for you and your partner it is a pretty safe sport. Learning about gear and everything you use while climbing is also important. If you don’t fully understand the workings of your gear you can get hurt, or just not climb very well because you don’t trust your gear to take care of you. Ask any climber and they will tell you the same.
8. The Views
When you get to a point of climbing outside of the gym, your trips will take you to some amazing places. Being high up on a wall allows you to see the area that you’r at in a different perspective. It is quite impressive as well as humbling to see how small we are compared to this world and how big everything else is.
You will find climbing areas around the world, and the actual places you are climbing aren’t always a destination that everyone in the world wants to go to. You may be of a select few people who ever get to be in such places and see such amazing natural areas.
9. It grows your confidence.
Climbing can be an incredibly strong confidence booster. From the very first time you climb it will be difficult. You may not feel that you can make it up a particular climb, but when you finally make it you are rewarded with a confidence booster. This at least for me pushes me to climb even more routes, and push myself to get up even harder routes.
Its a great feeling to accomplish something you have been working on for a long time. In a climbing gym or even outside there is such a mix of difficulties on any given climb. There are going to be many that are easy and some that are hard but no matter what there is some sort of confidence to gain every time a route is completed.
10. It looks cool!
One of the biggest draws and silliest things that bring people to climb is the fact that is just plain looks awesome. How many times have you seen a movie or an ad or commercial, or just a picture of some one climbing? Has some of the first thoughts that come to your head, wow that’s cool or impressive, but that person is crazy!
We are a bunch of crazies and such a mixed persona in the climbing world. We love it and cannot stop thinking about it. Even as I sit here writing this, I am thinking about climbing. Im wondering when I will go again, or who I will go on an adventure with next. Im imagining the few crags I have been to and the ones I want to go to.
There are many reasons people pick up rock climbing, and I feel that most of these reasons are why I started it and some of the reasons I started I didn’t even know about until I began pulling on rocks.
Warning: This is important.
The sport of rock climbing is inherently a dangerous sport when the proper precautions and learning does not occur. You can get hurt, and very rarely you can be killed. If you want to try rock climbing it takes a lot of time learning, practicing, and an ample amount of fitness. It’s never too late to start rock climbing nor is it ever too early.
If you are to go out climbing, go with someone who knows much much more than you do for the first few times and learn everything you can about the safety aspects. This will keep you from being hurt or killed and allow you to enjoy many years of rock climbing. The best way to get into climbing is to go to your local gym, receive instruction, learn the risks, and do your best on every climb!
I LOVE CLIMBING!!
Check out this other climbing blog that I wrote and be on the lookout for more to come!
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”– David McCullough Jr.