Rock Climbers: The Nicest People On Earth Part 2

Photo Courtesy of  Mary Gallagher Kuras

In truth I am a little old to have taken up rock climbing. But when people ask me, why climbing? I guess the answer that comes to mind is....

Well, why not? At least that is what Mike and I said when we first started climbing after joining the YMCA in December of 2005.

We joined the Y because we decided we needed to find something to do that was a little easier on our bodies than boxing had been, and so that the kids would have a place to work out, too. Mitch was so excited to join because he wanted to try the rock wall. He'd gotten a taste of climbing on the high ropes course at 5th grade camp, the spring before, and was anxious to try again.

The start of something big! Mitch at camp ManitouLin.

Unfortunately his hopes were dashed when he broke his arm snowboarding a few days later, effectively pushing back his dream of getting on the wall by a couple months. Bummer.

Eventually he healed, hopped on the wall and surprisingly with only a little instruction and urging from awesome climbers and friends Jake and Josh, entered his first climbing competition a couple weeks later.

At that point I had no idea there even was such a thing as competitions for rock climbing.

I resisted and when Mitch persisted, I humored him, ran out to GVSU ( a local university) and signed him up on a friday evening. He competed the next morning in his first competition.

He won the men's beginner division.

He was 12.

That was our first indication that he had the potential to be a very good rock climber. And it was also when I got my first misconception about rock climbing cleared's not about how fast you climb up the wall or even the fact that you get to the top. It's about the journey, the path you take.

Photo Courtesy of: Mary Gallagher Kuras

 Because Mitch was fearless, flexible and motivated on the wall, I thought that was goal. Get to the top the fastest.

But, no. Toproping, which is climbing with a harness and rope, is about the route you take, not how fast you go up. For example the "blue" route on the rock wall may be marked with blue holds or with blue tape. You can only use the holds marked with "blue" to get to the top. That means you can use your hands and feet on those marked holds. In competition, if you fail to reach the end of the route or touch/use a hold not on the route, you must come down. Since each route has a rating, you can progress to harder and harder routes based on those ratings. Thats how you get your "score".

As Mike and I watched Mitch interact with the twenty somethings he was climbing against, and admired their ability on the wall, and their graciousness off the wall. I realized this is a group I would love to call myself a member of. They welcomed Mitch into their group so easily, he was 12 for goodness sake, and they treated him with respect and encouragement. They offered him beta, (climbing term for advice). They made him feel like he fit in.

I think I even said to Mike as we watched the competition, maybe we should try this. Only thing the time I was scared of heights, and still am a little to be honest. But I didn't let that stop me. I started climbing soon after and quickly fell in love. Not only with rock climbing and the awesomeness of pushing myself farther one hold at a time, but with the climbing peeps themselves. And it didn't take long before Mike followed. We struggle with not necessarily being as flexible or as young as our fellow climbers, but there is something to be said about being young at heart, right?

I am proud to call myself a climber. However, at this point, I am strictly an indoor rock climber. So maybe that makes me still a wannabe rock climber.

When I grow up.....I will climb on real rocks, outdoors in the real world. :) I promise.