I am terrified of pushing my personal limits, and have an irrational fear of heights — two qualities that make me a better climber, despite the obvious flaws in that equation. Those two characteristics are reason enough for many people to never put on a harness, but it's part of the reason I still chalk up my hands and get vertical.
The first day I sloppily traversed the walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym in Florida was the day I became a climber. The activity has redefined my life, and led me on adventures journeying from the sandstone crags of the southeast to granite domes across the border in Canada. With so many styles of climbing and rock-littered destinations, the opportunity to challenge yourself is always available if you're willing to take it.
After nearly five years of bouldering and single-pitch sport climbing, I used my recent move to Colorado as a motivator to tackle something I've always admired and feared: multi-pitch routes. (My palms are slick with sweat just writing about it.)
I have traditionally always climbed with one partner, who now lives in Florida, which isn't very useful to me when I'm in need of a belay. So when a close acquaintance invited me out to explore a local climbing area, Clear Creek Canyon, I was hesitant to trust someone new — especially because I had never actually met my new partner, Jason.
After exchanging hugs, I embarked on a new experience with Jason. It wasn't the newness of the idyllic climbing destination, nor the act of climbing my first multi-pitch that had the most impact on me as an adventurer. It was the sensation of reaching so far beyond my boundaries to trust, explore, and discover.
With limited knowledge of knots and anchor building, I put my confidence entirely in a stranger. Where I'd normally be obnoxiously double-checking everything and asking "are you sure I can do this?" a million times, I instead diligently absorbed instructions and put my faith in Jason's skills.
There was no room for fear as I climbed four pitches up 400 feet of granite — the highest I've ever traveled on a rope. I had reached so far beyond my personal limits that my body and mind didn't even know what to do besides keep climbing higher. Soaking up the wind-swept view from the top anchors of Playing Hooky was one of the most rewarding moments I've had as an adventurer.
We all have our fears, our limiting factors, that one thing that holds us back and inspires us to break down in shaky tears while climbing towards new adventures. To break through those barriers is to gain access to a new layer of ourselves. There is always room to grow, always a new part of yourself to discover — if only you can summon the courage to push past fear.
This summer, I dare you to challenge yourself. Throw yourself so far out of your comfort zone, so far beyond your usual limits that your only option is to keep pushing further towards new adventures. Hike deeper into the backcountry, paddle into unchartered waters, trust a stranger, and see how far this season can take you. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
How Climbing Your First Multi-Pitch Can Change Your Life
By Katie Boue
May 19, 2014
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