In Pursuit of the Vertical World by BJ Sbarra

BJ Sbar­ra of shares his his­to­ry and love affair with climb­ing in today’s guest post.

It all start­ed inno­cent­ly enough, with a 13 year old boy halfway up an obscure, 60′ wall of gneiss in upstate New York. Fast for­ward a cou­ple years, and that same boy, now 15, could be seen 500′ up a giant slab of rock in the Chapel Pond region. It was on that climb that the boy real­ized this was some­thing he loved, and so it began.

From there the pas­sion grew, slow­ly but sure­ly, on the meta­mor­phic crags lin­ing the banks of the Potomac Riv­er. Dur­ing the col­lege years, it matured on the ver­ti­cal quartzite of New York’s Shawan­gunk’s. And then came Col­orado, and the West, and the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties they presented.

And that leaves me some­where in my ear­ly thir­ties, with almost half my life spent in pur­suit of the ver­ti­cal world. Why? Maybe because it’s phys­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing. I seem to have lit­tle nat­ur­al tal­ent, except when it comes to split­ter cracks, so climb­ing well, for me, means work­ing hard to attain my goals. Maybe it’s the men­tal sat­is­fac­tion of qui­et­ing my mind and mak­ing the moves my body knows how to do, despite the poor pro far below. Or maybe it’s the con­tin­u­al learn­ing process of refin­ing my tech­nique, and final­ly fig­ur­ing out what it means to tru­ly “use your feet.”

For me, it’s all these things, and so much more. Some would say they can’t put their fin­ger on why they climb, but for me the list is almost too long. The incred­i­ble places we get to go: Red Rocks in the win­ter, Indi­an Creek in the spring, the alpine high coun­try in the sum­mer, the Black Canyon in the fall. The sights and scenes of some of the most spec­tac­u­lar coun­try you can find: sun­sets in the desert, alpen­glow on a high peak, the rolling hills of New York stretch­ing to the horizon.

It’s the friends we make along the way, the close bond of part­ner­ship. Going through an expe­ri­ence with some­one and get­ting to know them bet­ter for it. The instant bond we have as a tribe of climbers, the sto­ries of shared expe­ri­ences and the hopes and dreams of future ascents. Shar­ing a rope with my best friend, who also hap­pens to be my wife, high above the ground with many pitch­es below us, and many more to go.

It’s all these things and more, but most of all, it’s just fun. Climb­ing is a life long pas­sion, and I hope to con­tin­ue pur­su­ing it for a long time to come.

You can read more from BJ at


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