I’m in love.
With climbing. And it was not long ago that this love story began.
I met climbing three years ago through a mutual friend who took me to the gym.
And now, we’re in a committed relationship. Though I have to say, we got off to a precarious start. I began as a total basket case on a top rope in the gym. But now I consistently lead climb 5.12 (I have yet to send my first 12 outside, I’m pretty close! Big summer goal!).
My feelings about climbing can be difficult to describe. I’ve tried to explain them to a lot of people, here’s my best stab at it:
Climbing is like a relationship. Like when you meet someone really fun and cool, you want to hang out with them all the time. Then you realize that your casual relationship–just hanging out and having fun–is turning into something a little more serious. Now, the relationship requires some work and motivation. You don’t mind the work because you really love the person, they’re important to you, and you want to make it work. That’s the way climbing is for me, I really love it, I understand it, it’s important to me, and it makes me feel totally complete. I want to make my relationship with climbing work so that it’s a forever kind of thing—‘til death do us part. Oh, and by the way, “death” in this scenario means I’ll be the ripped, silver-haired lady, still crushing at the local crag until I die of old age (sigh, in my dreams).
Climbing isn’t a serious relationship for everyone, though. Some people like to enjoy it casually, some people are just dating it and don’t really need a big commitment, they just want to have fun, and others, well, they’re taking their marriage to climbing to the next level!
Whatever type of climbing relationship you’re in, here are a few “dating” tips that I follow to keep the relationship alive and healthy:
- The best climber is the one having the most fun! If you are a “serious” climber, stop being so serious; be a little silly – especially if you are not having the best day on the rock or at the gym. You’ll climb better with a positive attitude and a smile on your face.
- Always climb with a trusted (and fun) belay partner! Just like relationships don’t work without trust, neither does climbing. It’s hard to concentrate and feel safe without trust and familiarity with your climbing partner. You’ll climb better and have more fun with someone you have confidence in. Plus, we all feed off of each other’s energy. I’ve had great days climbing and horrible days climbing…the worst days are when my partner is also having an “off day” and we both start to commiserate. Keep it upbeat, you and your partner will appreciate it!
- Have goals and approach struggles with a positive attitude! Just as marriages experience periods of bliss, periods of stagnation, and total break downs (agh!), climbing can also go through those phases. Set goals to motivate yourself through plateaus–whether you climb 5.8 or 5.13a there’s always another way to push your limits.
- Climb with confidence! I have a climbing partner that told me every time I get on a route I should inflate my ego a little bit with self-talk. Climb like the bad-ass chick (or dude) that you are! Tell yourself in moments of fear or doubt, “I’m AWESOME!” I promise you will climb better!
- Spice things up! Keep your relationship exciting by visiting new places and trying new crags. Never be intimidated to try new routes (this one is tough for me!). It’ll be a fun new challenge and you will be proud that you at least took a stab at it.
- Always climb with the right equipment! In dating and relationships, we use tools to keep the relationship happy and healthy. You should also use the right tools for climbing–pick shoes that match the type of performance you need, pick a harness that’s comfortable and suits the type of climbing that you do. Find your gear favorites and use them! My favorite tool for climbing right now is my brand new Trango Lotus 70m rope–it’s pink!
- Relationship Maintenance! Do some cross training. Go running, hiking, or biking. Try some yoga. Staying fit in other ways will help you stay healthier and avoid injury. If you are bored with sport climbing, go bouldering–it will help your power and get you out of your slump! If you hit the local climbing gym, try a climbing-specific training class or hit the systems boards for an hour every so often. Build your skills and you will better your relationship.
I love climbing. At this point, I’m still happily committed to it! Sure, climbing and I have our ups and downs and plain old boring days, but I’m willing to work through them so that things improve!
Summer seems to be flying by and I’ve yet to finish my goal (5.12!)… but I’m climbing with confidence, getting out on rock as much as possible, taking lots of falls, getting back on route to try again, and always trying to have the most fun!
Wherever you are in your climbing relationship–serious commitment or just trying it out, remember Tip #1: The BEST climber is the one having the MOST fun!
Story written by Dana Waggener