Why do you Climb?

For me the answer is that I love the puzzle of figuring out how to do hard moves.  That’s it for me.  I think much of that can be linked to my first year of climbing.  I was the ultimate gumby, but man was it fun.

My first exposure to climbing was on a summer exchange program in Germany in 1995. One of the other students brought a rope/shoes/harness/etc and offered to take us out and show us the basics. We went out and top-roped a 30-40 foot cliffband just off the road that was probably in the 5.6-5.7 range.  I didn’t know anything about climbing, technique, grades or such at the time, but I had fun trying something new.

When I started college that fall in Albuquerque, there was another student in the dorms who had been given a rope, harness, and shoes by his uncle.  One day about 4 of us decided to go try to climb something.  We found someone who gave us directions to a small area they thought had some climbing, so we drove out there to give it a shot.

I had been shown how and belayed a total of one time, which made me the experienced one of the group.    No one else had ever climbed anything.  I had never seen anyone lead climb, didn’t really understand how it was done, and we didn’t have any draws, so when we got to the crag, the first step was to get the rope in place.  Luckily, there were cold shuts at the top of the wall, not so lucky was the loose sloping gravel at the top of the cliff band that I had to lay down on to reach down to put the rope in the cold shuts.  We managed to get the rope in place, then since we only had one harness we had to figure out how to belay.  Near the base of the wall (about 20 feet out) was a good sized tree which we tied the rope around and used as an anchor for the belay.  Then it was time to climb and man did we have a ball.  We traded shoes and harness between goes, and wore ourselves down very quickly.  No one made it even halfway up the wall, but we were hooked.

There was a climbing shop near campus, but none of us had any money.  With what meager money we could get our hands on, we slowly started to accumulate our essentials.  First up was some good old fashioned webbing and a couple of biners.  We used this to help set up top-ropes (we could use trees now), to help set up the belay’s (we still only had one harness), and just about anything else (clotheslines in the dorm rooms, slacklines, etc.).  Next up was a second harness.  This really expanded where we could go.  We started exploring in the Sandia’s, toproping anything we get a rope on because we didn’t need a tree to belay from anymore.  Some of the things we set up were pretty sketchy…..  By the spring time we had scraped together about 8 draws as well and had started leading things.

Throughout this whole time, somehow we had never managed to run into anyone out climbing who offered tips or suggestions.  We were completely insulated from any community style, ethics, or ideas.   We didn’t know anything about grades, guibebooks, hangdogging, yo-yoing, Z-clips, backclips, redpoint, flash, trad, sport, bouldering, etc.  We did whatever we wanted, and what we wanted was to go up things and puzzle out how to do the moves.

For almost 16 years of climbing now, I’ve never really changed from that stance.

That’s why red pointing roped climbs has never really held much of a draw for me: once I know how to do the moves, I get bored and just want to figure out how to do something else.

That’s why developing is so much fun for me:  no one knows how to do those particular moves until you do them.