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All the excuses…

Climbers come in all shapes and sizes; the most apparent differences seem to be the varying ranges in height.

That’s such a long reach; I can’t make that move. I’m not tall enough!

I’m too scrunched up, I can’t do that move. This climb’s made for shorter people.

We always find excuses to appease our wounded egos, struggling to admit complete and utter defeat.  We never want to admit to not being able to do something because we aren’t enough.

It can’t be me. I’ve been training and getting stronger. This climb clearly just isn’t made for me.

As a vertically challenged climber, standing at barely 5’1”, I find myself struggling on long, reachy moves where my climbing partner, standing at 6’0”, can simply reach and effortlessly make the move I helplessly struggle with.  On the contrary, there are times when I can easily get a high foot where his limbs are just too long to make that high foot feasible to move from. 

Full extension vs. an easy reach

The feelings that arise in these moments can range from frustration, rage, defeat, hopelessness – things that make us feel like we simply aren’t enough. As a naturally competitive individual, not being able to accomplish something that I know is well within my capabilities can sometimes trigger some deeper emotions that can be detrimental to my climbing and overall mental state.

Challenged not only by the physical demands of the climb but the emotions and mental state of mind that emerged within me, I called one of my best friends and long time climbing partners who I knew would understand my dilemma and empathize. He did what any friend would do and agreed with the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. However, he did what a true friend would and told me exactly what I needed to hear, not just simply what I wanted:

Why do you climb? Are you climbing because you want to be stronger than so-and-so? If that’s the case, you’re never going to be happy. Do you climb for the social aspect climbing provides you with? If so, don’t be mad if you can’t send something because you’re too busy socializing. Do you want to send higher V grades but no one wants to train with you? Train alone. Your goals won’t always align with other people’s goals. When you start to feel lost, come back to the basics:

Why do you climb? Who are you climbing for?

That struck me at my core. Why do you climb? Who are you climbing for? I knew he was completely right.  In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to lose direction and feel lost in the emotions that immediately consume us. When you take a minute to step back and understand the thoughts and emotions that naturally run their course, that cloud begins to pass and you’re left with a sense of clarity.  Much like any relationship we have in life, it’s not always going to be rainbows and sunshine. There are thunderous, stormy days that leave you feeling like you want to give up and quit altogether.

Because climbing is so much a part of who I am and the lifestyle that I choose to live, there are times that the sport I love so much won’t provide the sense of gratification and accomplishment that fuels my addiction. Instead, it shows me all the raw, darker emotions of defeat, unworthiness, and failure. These, for me, are my greatest opportunities to learn more about myself, to be compassionate, and practice humility. If I can’t make a move because it’s too lengthy, I have a choice to accept the fact that the climb is not for me; or, I can figure out a way to make that “impossible” move possible for me. When I get upset or frustrated, I need to remind myself of why and who I’m climbing for:

I climb because it gives me a release – a temporary escape from the “reality” of life; yet, simultaneously, it humbly teaches me about the life I’m needing refuge from. I climb because it keeps me grounded despite how high off the ground I may be. I climb because it saved me from my darkest times. I climb for each and every emotion it presents me with; for showing me what it means to truly be alive. I climb for me.

So the next time you’re in over your head about a climb, take a step back and remember your reasons why. Understand that not every climb is not made to fit every body type, in fact, most climbs generally aren’t. Just because a climb isn’t for you doesn’t mean you’re less of anything; you’ll find a project that suits your every need.

Be passionate. Stay humble. Climb on.