Climbing the Walls

When I’m not climbing the walls at home, I like to climb the walls at Ironworks climbing gym in Berkeley. Although I’d climbed a few times back in 1998, I really started climbing in September, 2002, when my roommate invited me to go to Joshua Tree for Thanksgiving. I was a beginner climber at the time and went to the gym two or three times a week for at least two months before I even attempted a 5.10a. Last spring my goal was to climb a 5.12a in the gym, and I did (with several falls) although I lost my strength quickly when school got busy and I didn’t have time to go to the gym more than once a week. Now I’m struggling up 5.11a’s again. My outdoor goals have been more moderate – MUCH more moderate. Although I’ve toproped a few 5.11s, the hardest I’ve led is a 5.10a sport and a (pathetic) 5.5 trad. This summer I hope to lead a lot of 5.6s and maybe a 5.7 or two. I’m not ready yet for 5.8s. Leading trad scares the hell out of me and it’s just not worth breaking a few bones or losing your life to say, “Dude, I totally red-pointed that 5.8.” NOT worth it. But fear is an interesting thing. When I first started leading in the gym, I was terrified. Now when I lead, I find myself several moves about the last clip without even thinking about it. I become so focused on the next move that I forget that I could take a big fall, which is wonderful because the least frightening way to take a fall is not to know it’s coming. Then again, the worst thing that can happen in the gym is spraining my ankle pretty badly – which I did last spring – whereas outside you can really bust your head open. I’m intrigued by the psychology of fear, why we choose to put ourselves in fearful situations and why we such highs from cheating death. Overcoming my fears has definitely increased my confidence. I hadn’t led anything difficult in almost a year and hadn’t led at ALL since a trip to Yosemite last August. Then I committed to a trip to Red Rocks at the end of March and figured I’d better start to get in shape. Normally before a trip I top rope for at least a couple of weeks before getting up the nerve to lead, then I lead for a few more weeks before the trip. But there’s no time for that. I have two weeks to get ready and that’s it. So without any preparation, I led several .10s this week, and it was such a powerful feeling to just get out there and do it. I try to transfer that philosophy to my writing. Don’t think about it; don’t stress about it; just sit down and do it. The worst that can happen? You fall a few feet, get up, and start again.


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