I Can’t Write About Climbing And I Don’t Know Why

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I went to a lovely crag the other day, Paradise Forks, somewhere I hadn’t been in a long time. I had a lot of fun. Onsighted something that felt hard for me, pushed it with some hard moves above a yellow x4, tried hard. You know – all that stuff we love. Insert obligatory chalked up hands rubbing one another in slow-mo here.

But in the morning, my shoulder was jacked up, and I felt completely uninspired to ever climb again. I don’t know what to say, except, I think I’m in a funk.

Is climbing changing? Am I changing? Is everything changing? I disappear into the wilderness for a few days without a rack or a rope – just walking, looking, listening – and when I emerge, all the “news” from the climbing world feels hopelessly inane, utterly banal. Is this stuff a joke? I find it impossible to care.

And yet (please don’t laugh) it’s my career. Or, at least, the closest thing I have to one. It’s my identity. It’s who I think I am. It’s worth taking pause to note that it is painful for things you used to love to now fall on deaf ears.

I’m sure it will pass. There’s still that serotonin shot to the brain that comes when hand or foot touches stone. But what scares me the most is not wishing it will pass at all. Is feeling like something far better, far more meaningful, far more useful, compassionate, empathetic, productive, spiritually fulfilling, emotionally invigorating, and socially engaged will fill its place.

I am not saying climbing is empty. What I am saying is that, increasingly, I find all the hooplah surrounding it to be more and more empty to me. What I’m saying is that I feel that climbing, and #climbing, have simply got to diverge at this yellow wood. I feel like getting out while the getting out’s still good.

And that’s why I haven’t written here in a while.


That’s all. I’m not going to tie it into the Paris Climate Agreement, or anything else related to politics or the current state of things. Let your brain go wild. This is just… I don’t know what – an apology to all five or so of the regular readers of this blog.

 

Right now, I’m just shooting blanks.

So first of all, my apologies. And second of all, my advice.

Go outside.

Go climb something and leave the camera at home. If you’re a writer, come back and don’t write about it. Ever. Don’t tell your friend at the bar. Don’t talk about your send at the gym. Don’t update your social media. Just go climb. Start at the bottom, size up something that your level of experience leads you to believe you can tackle safely, and start moving upwards. Keep a close eye on the light, especially any light filtering through trees. Scan the skies for red tailed hawks, ravens, bald eagles, peregrines, canyon wrens, finches, or whatever else is around. See if you can feel the texture of the stone through the rubber of your shoes. If you can’t, try to climb it in your socks; if you need to, try an easier route. Put the chalk away, you don’t need it. Try to fail. Try to succeed. Try to not know anything about numbers, names, or those who came before. Forget about how hard it is. Forget about how hard you are. Know that nobody is keeping score. And when you’re done, put the shit in the car and lie down on the hood and look at the sky. And if there are clouds in it, see what they turn into for you. And if it’s not too cold, stick around for sunset. And if you’re still there after sunset, keep your eyes on the stars. If you stare for long enough, you’ll see one moving: shooting across the sky like the blurred headlights of passing cars.


Or don’t. Whatever. It’s up to you. But right about now, when I think about climbing, that’s all I really want to do.

9 comments

  • First off, you use X4s? weird.
    Moving on, interesting timing with this one. A local magazine I write for just emailed me asking me if I had some content for their next issue. I started a few things a few months ago, and just stopped. Just didn’t feel driven. I’ve been climbing a ton, but haven’t really taken any photos. I think the way to ruin something you’re passionate about is to force it. Go with the flow. Cheers.

    Like

    • Ha- I was climbing on someone else’s rack. Tend to prefer purple Metolius in that size, but if the shoe fits…

      I hear you loud and clear. I think it’s called a break… we should probably take them periodically. Good luck with yours, Trout!

      Like

  • Beautiful meditation, Chris.

    Like

  • Awesome post. I was just reflecting on my last long weekend in the Red, and most of the memories are of things like the beautiful purple flowers I saw all over as we hiked, or how cool certain patterns in the rock looked or how encouraging we all were for a friend who’s very afraid of heights. Or all of the joking around about this climb or that. That’s definitely all the stuff that makes me keep going out climbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This sums up a lot of what I have been feeling about climbing lately as well. After 30 years on the rock I’m not giving it up, but I’m drawn more and more to longer routes in quieter places. The social media effect is real and wears me thin at times. Also, avoid the Mountain Project forums, that just makes it worse. There is still great joy out there, let’s keep trying to find it and let it be what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  • You know when you read something that perfectly sums up how you’ve been feeling but didn’t quite have the words to translate those thoughts into real life? This was it for me. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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