Ups and Downs

As climbers, we spend a lot of time going up and down. We go up and down the trail, up and down routes at the crag, and up and down the road that gets us there.

I haven’t written here in a while because I’ve been having some ups and downs with my relationship to climbing. Mostly downs, actually.

I had a scary fall two weeks ago. I was climbing an easy (for me) route which I had climbed once before that day. The next bolt was at my waist, as-yet un-clipped, when I made a move for the clipping jug and missed.

I fell.

As I was falling, I felt the rope come behind my leg mid-air. I reacted instinctively, throwing my head and shoulders away from the wall. When I came to a stop, upside down, just the tip of my left toe touched the wall. I ended up with a small rope burn and seriously shaken confidence, but no other ill effects.

At the same time, I had just started graduate classes and was really struggling. It felt like I wasn’t good at anything I was trying to do–not classes, not climbing. I was definitely feeling down.

For me, a weekend trip to the Red entails 15 hours of driving for two days of climbing. It’s seriously tiring, and it’s hard to get any work done over the weekend. I began to question my decision to come climb–was it even worth it if I was going to suck so badly? The scary fall triggered a whole slew of questions about my commitment to climbing, my commitment to my career, and worries about my ability to have climbing in my life while learning and living in Chicago.

The Red is magic–always worth the trip.
Photo by Flickr user jcschu07, click through for more of his photos.

I don’t have answers to many of these deeper questions yet, but I am feeling much more positive now, mostly thanks to amazing friends in the climbing community.

I made a number of truly special friends on my trip, who remain friends even though they are now very far away. Talking to them helped me to process the aftermath of the bad fall and figure out how to move forward with my climbing.

I am making new friends in the climbing community here. They have encouraged me to get back on the sharp end, been patient and understanding when I get scared, and their psyche has kept me motivated. Last weekend, I went back down to the Red, took some practice falls, sent a few routes, and tried some hard stuff. The fear is still there, but I’m not letting it rule me.

Grad school is hard. Making it outside to climb when you live in Chicago is hard. Figuring out how to balance climbing and a demanding work schedule is hard, but this week, for the first time since I started classes, it feels like I’ll be able to pull it off. :)

Dispatch #3: We’ll Call Her Shaun

Dear Mom: I hope you notice joke in the title, since it was just for you. I don’t think anyone else will get it. ;) 

Today, I drove some more. I got the rest of the way through IA and am currently somewhere in the middle of Nebraska.

The windmill-themed Iowa rest stop is awesome. So clean it feels like the future and it has free wifi!

I finally got my camera set up, which is nice. It’s a bit frustrating to see interesting things on the road all the time and not have anyone to point them out to. I wish I could take pictures, but I’m always driving, sometimes it’s on another car, and other times I’m just not in the mood to stop.

As far as I can tell, most of the midwest looks like this. Nebraska has hills, Iowa has trees and hills, and Ohio has neither.

Today, I cut off all my hair in Omaha, Nebraska. I knew I wanted to cut my hair short, but I was planning to do it before I left Boston. I was going to do it in Des Moines, but all the salons were busy for weeks->months. So I did some browsing on my phone while my tank filled up, and picked the first salon that looked good. The stylist seemed alright, so I let her cut all my hair off. Sometimes these things just work out.

Hey guys, I left all my hair in Omaha! :o

Also, guys, did you know that Nebraska is huge? It’s enormous!

Dispatch #1: Going Nowhere Fast

I was planning to leave for Oregon today for my four month climbing trip. I’m very excited about the trip–I did a better than average job of getting outside to climb this spring, and I’ve been training hard lately. I was all set to spend the summer living in the back of my pick-up truck. Until I shattered the back glass today, a couple hours before I was planning to leave. Oops.

In other interesting news, an entire window shattering at once makes an awesome sound

If I stick around here to get the glass door replaced, it’ll be a week before I can leave. I’m looking into getting the cap door replaced closer to one of the manufacturer’s warehouses–basically going to them instead of having them ship to a dealer near me. Since I’m driving across the country, I do have a couple options. Hopefully future dispatches from the road will involve fewer car troubles and more climbing!