It is pretty obvious in this blog that Sweetie and I have a huge love for rock climbing. We look forward to climb both new routes and our favorite ones during weekends after a hard week’s work. We congratulate each other as we feel ourselves get better with every climb. The excitement of ascending routes, the re-connection to Mother Nature, and the opportunity to befriend new people during a weekend of rock climbing are simply too good to pass up.
Yet, we rarely look deep—really deep—into our passion for the sport. What made us love it? Why are we addicted to it? Has climbing contributed something to our lives? Is the sport really worth our time?
We got our answers a few weekends ago. We climbed with a number of participants who joined an Outpax-powered rock climbing event in Poog. As the day wore on, we saw fun, excitement, and determination painted all over the faces of participants, many of whom were first-time rock climbers.
Suddenly, we found ourselves reflecting on why we got hooked to this sport in the first place, and we summarized them into 11 points.
1. It helps develop self-confidence.
If you have doubts about yourself, try out rock climbing. Ascending a towering cliff is no easy task; but as you move up a route, something primal awakens in you. You suddenly realize that you are more capable of doing things that you thought are impossible to achieve. You discover that you are stronger and more flexible than you have ever thought possible.
We have seen shy, nervous, and fearful people become better, more courageous, and more determined individuals after a single climbing session.
2. It shows you your limits.
Rock climbing has a particularly humbling way of showing weaknesses. We have heard stories of strong bodybuilders who thought they are at the pinnacle of strength. However, they find themselves breathless and pumped up as they desperately struggle to ascend a crag. Braggarts who thought they are brave suddenly find themselves shaking uncontrollably, their legs turn to jelly, as they look down at the ground a hundred feet below them.
Don’t think you are above the rest. Each person, including you, has his or her set of weaknesses.
3. It teaches you to manage your fear.
The fear of falling off a crag always plays in a climber’s mind—it is a natural, human instinct. To face that fear, a climber has to dedicate his mental and physical energy to every move he makes. In other words, a climber puts all his focus on reaching his goal. If he loses focus and lets his fear take hold of him, chances are, he will definitely fall or simply give up.
Facing your fear in life is an internal battle. You can always do it the easy way and give in, but you won’t move beyond what you are truly capable of. However, if you focus on achieving your goal by taking your fear by the collar, then there is always a chance that you’re going to reach your dreams.
4. You learn that it’s okay to fail.
You struggle, holding on to tiny crimps, to stay on the crag. You aim for that huge jug, which you can definitely reach with one huge lunge. You execute the move—and missed the jug by an inch! You scream and feel your soul leave your body as you drop 20 feet down. But no worries. The rope and quickdraws protect you from hitting the ground, and your trusty belayer catches your otherwise fatal fall.
We have a saying in rock climbing: you ain’t tryin’ if you ain’t fallin’. Failure is always a companion of success. Don’t be afraid to fail because you will learn how to push forward for every failure.
4. You learn to use your creativity and initiative.
Reaching that tiny ledge is the only way to reach the anchor, but it’s several inches beyond your reach. You know that the slight overhang prevents you from lunging. As you strain against gravity, you suddenly had an idea. You place your left foot here, your right foot there, your hip closer to the wall. Then you pivot your knee down, allowing you to gain a much-needed leverage. Yes, you look like a frog with a broken leg, but that doesn’t matter. With that unusual move, you were able to successfully reach the ledge!
We have reached the moon, explored unknown frontiers, made huge leaps with technological advancement, and cured previously incurable diseases. If you look into human history, it’s mankind’s rich imagination and creativity that made all these possible. Rock climbing hones your mind to solve problems in unusual and creative ways. It is a mental exercise every time you climb a route.
5. You learn to trust people.
When you climb a towering rock face, you entrust your life into the hands of your belayer. Literally! The all-important job of the belayer is to catch your fall so you won’t get splattered all over the ground. Sweetie and I have a very strong bond because we literally trust each other to keep us safe and alive when we climb.
Rock climbing teaches you to put your trust in certain people. It helps you realize that despite misgivings, fights, and doubts, there are really people who care for your well-being.
6. Rock climbing is a full-body workout.
Bored of the same old routine in the gym? Want to tone your body to chiseled perfection? Then go rock climbing. Fighting against gravity increases your strength, tones your muscles, burns calories, and lose fats. The body positions that you need to do to conserve energy or to reach holds help you improve your balance and flexibility. Finally, you train your mind and body to work in harmony.
Since every route is different, you won’t get bored with your workout. Your muscles won’t get subjected to the same routine.
7. You realize that there are people who are willing to help you.
The climbing community is a helpful bunch. Having problems on the route? People will readily give you beta, or information which could help you succeed in reaching the anchor. Ready to give up on your ascent? People on the ground cheer you up as you work on a route. Not sure if you are doing the right thing in securing yourself? Guides can make sure you are safe as you enjoy the activity.
Based on what we hear on the media and our own personal experiences, the world is filled with bad, untrustworthy, and evil people. But they are still vastly outnumbered by good and caring humans.
8. Rock climbing revitalizes your childlike wonder of Mother Nature.
You marvel at how Nature skillfully sculpted those marvelous cliff that you are about to climb. You get to admire a bird’s courage as she makes a nest just right beside a route’s anchor. You close your eyes and sniff the fresh mountain air. You listen to the lullabies of the forest, the drones of civilization far away from you. At the top of the anchor, you see an encompassing vista of majestic beauty.
Without a doubt, rock climbing re-establishes your connection with Mother Nature.
9. It gives you a dose of adventure.
Prepare as a fresh dose of adrenaline pumps into your system as you climb a crag. You feel the rush of excitement as you attempt a dynamic move that you know is awesome beyond words. You feel the thrill as you psyche up your body to climb a 100-foot crag. You feel a surge of confidence as you realize that this will be the faultless, smooth ascent that will finally send you topping out the route.
Neurologist Dr. Michael Davis of Emory University states that an overload of excitement and fear in rock climbing can cause your body to release neurotransmitters that are vastly more powerful than drugs. It’s not surprising, therefore, that rock climbers get hooked on to the sport.
10. You meet a lot of new people.
Rock climbing isn’t just for the young, healthy, and strong athletes. In fact, in our years of climbing, we have encountered a lot of people, from the meek to the outgoing, from the serious to the jokester, from the practical to the dreamer, and more. We met students, web designers, nurses, high-ranking business executives, entrepreneurs, and more. And in many cases, we have good relationships with them. Sheila and I even started our relationship while climbing a crag!
Rock climbing is a very social sport. Each session at the crag is an opportunity to meet a diverse group of friends, do business, wow someone, and more.
11. Rock climbing is incredibly satisfying.
The triumphant feeling of finally reaching the anchor after sustaining bruises and cuts, going through disappointments, suffering falls, and exerting every ounce of strength is inexplicable. For one glorious moment, you realize that against all odds and your preconceived assurance of failure, you have succeeded using your own sheer willpower and determination. In fact, even at just looking at your photos your friend took while you were climbing gives you a sense of fulfillment. When you get back on the ground, you will realize that you are really competing with yourself.
Rock climbing is not just a sport. It is a great and practical teacher that teaches you lessons of life. Climb a crag now!
(Cover photo credits: Outpax)
This event is powered and organized by Outpax.