Well, you might be interested in knowing how the trip to Squamish went after my post last Friday. I was struggling with the idea of not loving climbing as much as I did when I first started a few years back, mostly due to an increasing fear factor while doing it.
I can’t really explain logically why I’ve been facing more fear while climbing lately. Fear in climbing (and in general) isn’t linear – you don’t start at 100 and then slowly drop to zero as you improve your skills.
I’d venture to say that this is true of most scary things: public speaking, jumping off of tall rocks into water, shooting a free-throw in a packed gym, or pitching a new idea to your boss. In fact, I’d say that when I first started climbing, I was too ignorant of the risks and details to be afraid of anything going wrong, and once I learned what could go wrong, I began allowing myself to fixate. Not good.
Truth be told, climbing isn’t any more dangerous than any other sport, and since safety is always at the forefront of your mind, the likelihood of making a mistake while doing it is much lower than rolling your ankle in a volleyball game or running into a wall on the racquetball court.
All this is to say … drum roll please … I’m BACK in the game.
The trip was amazing; the perfect way to re-energize my enthusiasm for my sport. Squamish is the most user-friendly climbing destination I’ve ever visited. In an area called Smoke Bluffs, they even have signage marking individual routes! (For those of you who don’t climb, this is UNHEARD OF anywhere else.) It’s truly amazing, and because all the major rock formations are so close together, we were able to really pack it in. Over the course of 5 days (we had one day where weather stopped us from climbing), we probably climbed 25 to 30 pitches.
And now the big question: Do I care about multi-pitch climbing?
My big hesitation on this trip was really centered on multi-pitch climbing and the discomfort and uncertainty that can sometimes accompanies it. If there are climbing gods who were reading my mind at the outset of this trip, they responded by giving me and Loren our very first drama-free, perfect multi-pitch climbing experience. With every pitch bolted on a 6-pitch, low-angle, relatively easy climb, we sailed it! No dropped gear, no tangled rope, no treacherous descent, and PERFECT weather. I had my head the whole time, even on some of the more exposed moves! I was able to fully enjoy myself and appreciate that exercise in mental toughness that I value so much once again!
This isn’t to say that I expect every multi-pitch from now on to be that smooth-sailing, but I needed this particular climb to go as well as it did to open my mind and propel me forward. Between you and me, I actually see the appeal of the multi-pitch accomplishment now more than ever. (Don’t tell Loren!)
I know that most of my readers aren’t rock climbers, so I’m trying not to dominate this entry with climbing jargon or details that you don’t care about. I wrote last Friday’s post (Wrestling Fear) as a way to verbalize feelings that had been swimming around in my mind for a few months.
My feelings were of self-doubt, fear, and discouragement. Raise your hand if you’ve never felt those feelings about something important to you.
Lesson 1: What you choose to do about feelings like those will determine the course of your life, whether we’re talking about sport, career, or relationships.
Acknowledging self-doubt and getting to the bottom of it are the first steps to overcoming it. I had been doubting my skill and my mental toughness. I had also been doubting my desire to stretch myself, which was the source of my feelings of discouragement.
Lesson 2: Choosing to push forward is the “explorer’s way,” and I fancy myself an explorer.
I truly believe that the day you stop trying to grow and learn is the day you become old. I knew a very special 84-year-old woman who never stopped learning, right up until the very end. In the last weeks of her life, I remember her saying, “I know I’m old, but I just don’t feel old. I feel young.” That’s the way I want to live my life, and giving in to fear is not part of that equation.
Lesson 3: There’s a time and a place for being out of your comfort zone, and just about 100% of the time, you come out better for it on the other side.
I challenge you to name a time when you’ve faced a fear or obstacle head-on, overcome it, and not liked yourself better for having gone through it in the end. I won’t go as far as to say that constant fear-seeking is healthy or ideal (that might qualify you as an adrenaline junky), but I will say that shying away from something you want out of fear will hold you back.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela
On another note, Canada is REALLY expensive! To save some dough in Squamish, I made an awesome veggie-packed frittata for us to eat for breakfast the mornings we weren’t at a B&B. It fueled our long days of climbing so well that we often didn’t eat lunch until 3 or 4pm! The recipe will post on Friday!