Adventure Inspired… With Grace — by Katie Levy

My Climb­ing Beginning
The first time I put on a climb­ing har­ness was in my senior year of col­lege. The last sea­son of my com­pet­i­tive swim­ming career thus far was wind­ing to a close. I was ready for a new chal­lenge. And of course, there was a guy involved. My boyfriend sug­gest­ed that as an atyp­i­cal week­end activ­i­ty, we try out Cor­nel­l’s indoor rock wall.

“Birds­boro” by Ran­dall Carroll

We made it to the wall late one evening, and with an eye-roll, sat down to watch the Lind­seth Climb­ing Wall’s manda­to­ry safe­ty video. At the close of the movie, the cred­its rolled while the gym’s lead instruc­tor tra­versed the wall with grace and con­trol. I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the way he moved and how effort­less it looked. Short­ly after I’d been low­ered off my first climb, I was hooked, and signed up for a 6‑week instruc­tion­al class. I want­ed to move with effort­less­ness and grace – some­thing I’m still work­ing on four years later!

pho­to by Daniel Herscovitch

Why I Climb
The Phys­i­cal Chal­lenge — Being active is an impor­tant part of my life. I’ve found the qual­i­ty of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty I do in any day can be direct­ly pro­por­tion­al to my mood. I love being fit, strong, and wak­ing up just a bit sore after a day of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment! Climb­ing can be an incred­i­ble work­out, but the sport involves so much more than strength. Just ask any guy who tries to climb all day by doing pull-ups up the wall! It’s that com­bi­na­tion of strength with bal­ance and men­tal tough­ness that makes it so rewarding.

pho­to by Daniel Herscovitch

The Men­tal Chal­lenge — I love that the sport brings out the best and the worst in me. In climb­ing, I have to be present and put all of my phys­i­cal and men­tal ener­gy toward each move­ment. I have to face pri­mal fears, accept them, and move for­ward. I have to trust my gear, myself, and my belay­ers.  I have to take risks and accept the con­se­quences of failure.

pho­to by Tiffany Royal

Many of the men­tal chal­lenges I have in climb­ing par­al­lel those I have in life, and I’ve dis­cov­ered if I can deal with them in one realm, deal­ing with them in the oth­er becomes eas­i­er. It’s eas­i­er to brush off chal­lenges in life, but when you’re tied into the sharp end, that option does­n’t exist. Over­com­ing all of that, includ­ing my incred­i­ble fear of falling, and suc­ceed­ing on a route is one of the best feel­ings in the world!

The Com­mu­ni­ty
Climbers are among the coolest peo­ple I know. In gen­er­al, I’ve found the com­mu­ni­ty is full of friend­ly, gen­er­ous, help­ful peo­ple, and most of them are inter­est­ed in bond­ing with each oth­er. It’s hard to climb with­out a part­ner, and in some cas­es, with­out trust­ing anoth­er human being with your life. And that’s a big deal.

The sport is built around the con­cepts of trust and shar­ing knowl­edge. Although climb­ing can be com­pet­i­tive, grad­ing can be sub­jec­tive, etc., no new climber gets start­ed with­out a lit­tle help and no sea­soned climber can advance with­out sup­port in some form. Even for sea­soned climbers, there has to have been a time when each had to ask some­one about the loca­tion of a route, for beta, or for a belay. And that type of atti­tude toward help­ing oth­ers seems to fos­ter a kind of bond with­in the community.

pho­to by Daniel Herscovitch

What I’ve Gained from Climbing

Through this sport, I’ve met some of my best friends, been to some beau­ti­ful places, and learned a whole lot about who I am and how I respond to chal­lenges. Climb­ing is a great teacher, and even though I’m not always a will­ing stu­dent, climb­ing is patient and waits for me to focus. I’m still learn­ing to over­come my biggest obsta­cle – my own fears and self-doubts. But above all else, I’ve gained a new pas­sion, a new out­let for my ener­gy, and one that forces me to test and know my lim­its. I hope to con­tin­ue to learn and grow through climb­ing and oth­er out­door pur­suits for years to come!

You can read more from Katie at Adven­ture-Inspired and fol­low her on Twit­ter.