I call myself a climber. It's part of my identity - both in how I view myself personally and in how I present myself to the world. My Facebook is full of rock climbing photos. My Twitter and Instgram list me as a "climber, skier, runner, and LIFE enthusiast."
Climbing existed in my life before I knew about rocks or pulling plastic at climbing gyms. I always sought opportunities to be outside, and when I was feeling troubled by something I would ride my bike along the trail by my house to the gas station corner store to buy way-too-much candy, which I would eat in the park and think about life before I knew what it meant to think about life.
I left my idyllic Montana childhood where adventure was always out the back door and I moved to a new adventure in the big city of Seattle. At the University of Washington, I spent little time outside other than walking to class and marching band practice (yes, I was in marching band). My first five years in Pacific Northwest were pretty wasted.
|Patagonia is incredible.|
In early 2010, I went through a break-up and reassessed what I wanted from life. I prioritized losing weight and, 20lbs lighter, I no longer just liked climbing, I like liked climbing. Quickly I jumped into a serious-climbing-relationship and became a 10b lead-climber. I couldn't get enough. I knew I'd found something special.
Climbing and I enjoyed many long weekends together in local favorites like Smith and Mazama, and traveled near and far together to Red Rocks, El Potrero Chico, and Croatia. I tried to give back to climbing by spreading my knowledge and teaching others to climb safely to grow my coalition of climbing friends. It wasn't enough that I loved climbing, everyone I knew needed to love climbing too. I surrounded myself with like-minded people and we formed The Group, a rotating crew of truly exceptional people who have brought so much richness to my life.
|The Group in Red Rocks|
This blog does not have adequate space for me to communicate what this community means to me. From fitting eight people into a tiny sedan in Mexico to discovering an over-ground drug smuggling ring adjacent to a Croatian crag, I've made enough memories chasing my climbing dreams to last a lifetime. For me, climbing will always represent some of the happiest times in my life spent with the most supportive community around.
And yet, lately I feel only emptiness when it comes to climbing.
|My style on any given weekend.|
This change has been slow. First, I met Backcountry Skiing. Then I landed an awesome job where I am constantly challenged mentally, leaving too few brain cells in the 'mental reserve' to focus on climbing at the end of the day. Then I went to Norway and discovered Turns All Year and found out how much I love skiing in a tutu on big volcanoes.
As a result, I made choices to do things other than climbing while telling myself, "I'm still a climber." I even planned a trip to Thailand to prove it. I trained but it was too little too late, and as a result the trip was a disappointment. I was frustrated that my on-site ability had fallen, that I got stumped on easy-for-me climbs, that my endurance was down. I only have myself to blame for not acknowledging my own reality.
I came home from Thailand and struggled with health issues for months - which I used to cover up for the fact that I didn't want to climb. It was relieved to discover I had a parasite causing my physical and mental distress, but, even though my recovery is still ongoing (apparently one can suffer from Post Traumatic Digestive Syndrome), I still don't want to climb. It's just not fun anymore.
Confronting this reality is hard. I shared three amazing years with climbing (then two not-as-amazing years) and it used to bring me so much happiness and personal satisfaction. It challenged me physically and mentally. It provided some of my highest highs and my lowest lows. Chasing climbing opportunities took me to seven countries on four continents. Climbing gave me my first outdoor community and chosen family. It gave me you.
Quitting climbing isn't like bailing on a fad workout. It means leaving behind a community of people and risking that I won't be an important piece of their lives anymore. That they won't be part of mine. It means missing out on experiences and memories and this immersive lifestyle that I know should bring me so much joy.
But sometimes humans are faced with hard choices, and right now I have to admit that climbing isn't what it used to be for me.
So I quit - I'm done climbing. Probably not forever, maybe not even for long, but I feel grounded enough in this decision that I've taken my climbing harness out of my trunk and cancelled my gym membership. I don't have any plans to climb this summer and there are no trips to climbing destinations on the horizon.
I'm sharing this with you because it's been a real internal struggle for me, and I think it's important to recognize when something is no longer working for you - when it no longer brings value and richness to your life. There's strength in knowing your limits. Power in being true to yourself.
I do not view this as a personal failure. Climbing and I had five good years together and now we're parting ways. I am not sure if this is a passing feeling or if I'll always feel this way, but I hope that I can continue to look back on my time climbing with fond memories. Perhaps someday I will find myself once again clinging tightly to tiny holds on the side of a rock face, but until then, I'm excited to see what happens next.