Climb On

So it is no secret to those who know me that I have a slight obsession with climbing.  I have only been able to do it consistently since a gym had opened up in Kitchener in 2010. Living there at the time, I was thrilled when my cousin introduced me to the gym. I had always wanted to try “real climbing” with gear but had no idea where to start. My passion still grows daily for the sport. Nothing feels better than being on a route with the rope and draws and rock (holds in the gym are a close second). You love it or you don’t, but when you love it, it’s in your soul. It is a big part of who you are.

I always loved scrambling and hiking and climbing, but I had no idea how to become one of those cool climber people up on the rock face. Then Grand River Rocks happened and it became my second home. I met so many wonderful people.  I spent my whole life wondering why I never felt super comfy anywhere, just to realise at the age of 36 that the climbing community was where I belonged. I finally met tons of people who were so much like me! I finally got a great group of girl friends I had not had before but always wanted. I finally fit in.

My progress was fairly quick at the start as it is with most.  Then you plateau and then the progress goes slow, but as steady as you work it. That is something I love about climbing.  You get out what you put into it, but you can pace it however you want.

I have recently made a new friend at the gym named Karl. He is 61 and climbing strong! I was so inspired and I love talking to him about climbing and how to keep your body moving at the right pace to get many long years out of the sport. Climb around the pain, not through it. Respect the healing time of your injuries but don’t stop. Keep moving. Reps are key for endurance and strength just comes with time. He has been climbing for, I think he said, 38 years. I can only hope. He obviously started before I did, but he is not slowing down any time soon. The stories of an old school climber. Right from when they had to trad with pounding things into the cracks. No cams then. He introduced me to a climber closer to my age. Paul was maybe his name? He was bad ass.  I watched him do circuits on an auto belay. Up an8 down a 7, up a 10, down the 8, up an 11, down the 10, up the 8, down a 10+, it kept going for about 30-40 minutes. I felt such awe. He did not touch the ground the whole time. My endurance is NOT there.

I have, in my 5 short years, had a hernia surgery, long vacations (yeah no sympathy there), tendonitis in my shoulders, a stomach muscle pull, more tendonitis, a big move, an ankle sprain and more tendonitis in the shoulders all delay me with my climbing. Sometimes I climbed around the pain and sometimes I just did not climb. Like the 8 or 9 months after the move to Ohio. Oh wow did that just about kill my spirit. I climbed some, but not a lot. My body weakened as the attempts I made to keep my muscles up were not enough. I itched to climb, but my fears and hermitting kept me from braving the new gym. Who wants to climb alone and I had no one to climb with. I will never make that mistake again. As my new friend Karl has taught me, keep moving. If I have to down grade and climb with one arm or one leg, I will do it.

So even with all these delays in progress, an obsessed climber like me will always keep coming back for more. Other than Karl, a visual arts professor at Denison, I have also met my first new friend Brandon, a musician, firefighter Pete and personal trainer Ben. Karl and Ben’s wives are into climbing. Pete’s wife is pregnant with their first and was not comfy climbing through the pregnancy. Brandon likes to climb, but has many other things keeping him busy. Nurse, I want to say Madelyn, seems to only come for some bouldering, auto belay reps and abs class. So far every time I ask to swap catches with her she says not today, another time. We chat, it is something. I miss climbing with girls. However, at least the men I am surrounded with are encouraging and helpful. Great for the soul and keeps me from getting too discouraged when I do not seem to have the strength or endurance I used to. It is better, but I am not caught up yet. Pete and Ben are great for tips on strengthening and lead encouragement. Karl always has nice things to say with my technique and lots of tips. Of course they all have guy beta, so I am introducing them to some girl beta. It’s the best beta anyway. Now they just have to take me trad climbing so I can eventually get up the nerve to lead and get my own gear!

One of my favourite parts about climbing is the social aspect. It surprises me how many non-climbers at the gym are so anti-social when I try to make friends. The real climbers are always happy to chat with someone new for a bit or swap catches to get in more climbing or on a favourite or new route. They do not look at me like I am a freak for talking to them about a boulder problem, or they start talking to me first. The camaraderie is great. Once you start climbing with someone for a while you learn to trust them in a big way. They literally hold your life and safety in your hands. If you do not trust them you tend to not want to climb with them. You chat and get to know each other. Some of my best holidays and memories of good times are from climbing trips with wonderful climbing friends – new and old.

Some of my dearest friends have become so because of the time spent climbing. Of course that turned into time outside of climbing too, which is why I miss them so much. Not working outside the home I do not have work friends. My climbing friends I saw 2-5 times per week. We have so many interest the same. They became like twin sisters more than even friends or family. Just an extension of myself and I love them all so much. I miss them so much.

I do not foresee spending much time with my new climbing friends outside of climbing at the gym, and hopefully in Kentucky when the weather is ready. I have many other friends for non-climbing time. Then again, you really never know what life will bring, so we will see in time.

I love being outside, camping, hiking and the climbing just feels like the caramel centre. I have only been a few places outdoors to climb, and I have a long list of places I want to go and climb, and I love every minute and every opportunity I have. It is a large chunk of my heart and soul and happy place and I am good with that!

Now if I could just get my family to enjoy this passion with me. I miss them out there . . .

2 thoughts on “Climb On

  1. I had a similar experience to you Krista! I had a few close friends prior to climbing. Now I can’t go the the gym or crag without running into someone I know. Or make a new friend.

    Thanks for being one of those awesome people who welcomes me into the climbing community!

    I used to identify myself as an introvert. Now, is say I’m a social introvert. 🙂


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