Why I climb:

There are a cou­ple of ways I can approach this post…

Way num­ber one:

“I climb because it is the cor­po­re­al expres­sion of a spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion with the earth…”

This would be the most abstract per­spec­tive, mak­ing me sound deep and thoughtful.

Way num­ber two:

“I climb because I enjoy the men­tal chal­lenge. Climb­ing forces me to focus my often rac­ing mind, and tests my cre­ativ­i­ty as I encounter each obsta­cle and crux.”

This would make me sound smart, and a bit tortured.

Way num­ber three:

“I climb because it’s the most com­plete form of exer­cise I know of. It requires core strength, bal­ance, arm, back and leg strength – the whole pack­age – all in one sport!”

This would make me seem like an infomer­cial at 3am on a Tuesday.

And last­ly:

“I climb because I love the gear. I love the smell of new (and old) gear, I love the col­ors and the noise it makes when you move it around. I love pack­ing it and clean­ing it. I love that my clos­et is full of it in glo­ri­ous rows and shelves and hooks.”

This would make me sound like near­ly every oth­er climber out there.

Real­ly it’s all of those things, but much more, it’s because of the peo­ple. There is some­thing unique about the climber. It could be the smell, but most­ly it’s the atti­tude. Their approach to life is a weird bal­ance of cau­tion and aban­don: a healthy dose of cal­cu­lat­ed risk and an equal­ly gen­er­ous help­ing of balls. They come from all walks of life: they are busi­ness­men and women, retail­ers, writ­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers, and scientists.

Yet are all sim­i­lar­ly sat­is­fied with beer and piz­za and a warm camp­fire. I’m proud to be part of a sport where every­one is so eager to share with “out­siders.” It’s rare to find a climber who shuns or dis­cour­ages those who want to give it a try. More often they will over share their enthu­si­asm with hours of sto­ries and gear rec­om­men­da­tions. A friend said: “Give me a rope, a new­bie and a sun­ny crag and I’ll give you a climber by the end of the day.” It’s true – that’s all it takes to com­mu­ni­cate our pas­sion. Every climber I’ve met is a teacher in a way as well, be it with a patient belay or by pass­ing on a new tech­nique. No one is self­ish with knowl­edge, but rather it’s the knowl­edge shared that makes our com­mu­ni­ty so close.

A climber can trav­el for days to the mid­dle of nowhere and chances are they will run into friends. I’ve made a habit of find­ing new places to climb while on trav­el for work. On my first trip to San Fran­cis­co I met three love­ly women and spent the day boul­der­ing on Stin­son Beach. We clicked instant­ly. The four of us so vast­ly dif­fer­ent, nev­er hav­ing met before, brought togeth­er effort­less­ly that day. I’ve climbed with peo­ple in Cal­i­for­nia, Flori­da, Utah, Ida­ho, Col­orado, New Hamp­shire, Penn­syl­va­nia, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, West Vir­ginia, and New York. No mat­ter where I go, an ATC, shoes and a har­ness are all it takes to open doors and arms. I’ve had my great­est adven­tures with climbers, and made them my dear­est friends.

So even though I may spend hours col­or cod­ing my gear and study­ing reviews, even though I may enjoy read­ing up on the newest tech­nique or inspir­ing send, even though I may nev­er climb 5.12, or be on the cov­er of Rock and Ice, that’s ok. That’s not why I climb.

Aleya is an edu­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at NASA God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter. She lives and climbs in Mary­land with her dog, But­ter. Online she blogs at Rock and Sky.com and tweets as @BlueSkEyes207.  She is the queen of run-on sen­tences, her favorite beer is Yuengling, and once she climbed a 5.11.
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