Rewind: A Life Without Climbing?


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Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Feb 4, 2013 - 07:47pm PT
^^^ Amazing story, thanks for posting it.

T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Feb 4, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
Very inspirational story.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 4, 2013 - 08:26pm PT
You've come a long way vitaliy!
Amazing the personal transformations we can credit to the mountains(and ourselves, really)
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Feb 4, 2013 - 08:44pm PT
From my Nose in a day TR

Again, it was weird, 35 years before I had first climbed El Cap. I was 18 years old and a senior in High School. Climbing had changed my life back then and here I was, 35 years later, living that changed life. I wondered how it could have turned out differently and couldn’t think of anything.

Now, four years later, same story.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Feb 4, 2013 - 08:47pm PT
Vitality, DANG!!!!

Congratulations, good work and keep at it!,

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 4, 2013 - 10:01pm PT
I knew you'd come through with something vital for us Vitaliy.
No pun intended & thanks for posting!
john hansen

Feb 4, 2013 - 10:20pm PT
You gotta figure its gonna be a pretty good story when it starts with,,

"So I was born in the end of 1986 in an area that received a lot of radiation post Chernobyl disaster "

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 4, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
Like many here, I was never particularly athletic and certainly not at team sports. I got into the out of doors because my family had a summer cabin up in the Colorado mountains and I used to go hiking on my days off from working at the local dude ranch. I heard about the fun trips my father and uncles took into the Snowmass Wilderness area on horseback and got invited along only because I promised to do all the cooking. The first Outward Bound school was established just above our cabin and I applied year after year to work there but was told that their institution was too tough for a girl (15 years later they did hire women instructors and I worked for them one summer). My parents stopped going to our cabin in the summers but I continued to work there and live alone in our cabin even though I was only in high school. I also spent Christmas vacations there by myself.

The summer before I went to CU in Boulder I was particularly active at high altitude hiking and arrived in Boulder very fit. My first weekend there I went with the CU Hiking Club to Rocky Mountain National Park, where I met a guy named Joe O'Laughlin who offered to teach me rock climbing. i was scared when trying to rappel and leaned in too far and fell, which was the best thing that ever happened as I learned the belay rope holds and I was never afraid to risk falling after that. About a month after I started climbing I met Layton Kor at a party and the next day we were climbing together in Eldorado. I loved the greater physical challenge that rock climbing provided and being out of doors. It's hard to imagine now but often Layton and I were the only ones climbing on beautiful spring days in Eldorado. I also climbed with Larry Dalke, Pat Ament and Rodger Raubach.

Two years later, I moved to California via a summer in Yosemite thanks to Rodger giving me a ride out, and so in 1965, was the first girl to stay on her own in Camp 4 as a climber not attached to another climber. Later I met and married my husband, Frank Sacherer. A few years later we went to Europe and in the Alps I developed a love of big snow mountains which was only magnified when I went to the Himalayas. My professional career as an anthropologist was made in large part because I was able to survive a year at 12,000 feet in a very remote and primitive Himalayan village. By the time I got there, I had already been toughened up by my mountaineering experiences.

I think I can say that I pretty much owe everything good in my life to mountaineering and the mountains, of which I see rock climbing as only one part. As for danger, I never perceived rock climbing as dangerous. Only two people had been killed during the 1960's ( Jim Baldwin and Jim Madsen) both by preventable errors. Also, fortunately, that era was free of the rock fall that the Valley has suffered in later years. The Alps of course were another story.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Feb 5, 2013 - 01:29am PT
I knew you'd come through with something vital for us Vitaliy.

I saw your post where you encouraged me to post here, but wasn't sure if I should post, or how much. It actually felt good to share it, it has been sitting in me for a long time. So grateful to my mom and grandma for helping me get through the hell with my health. Now it feels great to try different things and see if I could do something I couldn't even imagine. Climbing helped me a lot. It is like meditation in a way. Another reality, where the past doesn't matter, and the only thing that does is here and now- the moment. It is kind of like going to a place of worship in a way, if that makes sense to anyone...
john hansen

Feb 5, 2013 - 01:35am PT
Jan, you are a truly positive influence here. Always respect your post's

Trad climber
Feb 5, 2013 - 09:10am PT
Bump for AWE...

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Feb 5, 2013 - 11:34am PT
Good story, Jan!

Trad climber
Feb 5, 2013 - 11:47am PT
Vitaly's story (as many others) is awesome! You always do such great TRs, and to hear your back story is downright inspirational. Thanks for sharing what (if I understood you correctly) you don't often share.

As for me, I always steered away from team sports, except for out in the street in front of my house. I got into climbing in '75 in Poway, CA (I was 17), after watching that Chuck Connors narrated show "Thrill Seekers" (the episode about the filming of the Mike Hoover short, "Solo").

Prior to that, my focus was rodeo. I wanted so badly to be a bull rider. I had a horse (a family horse, actually, but I ended up being the only one who rode), taught myself tons of rope tricks, built a bucking barrel in my backyard, and was pretty obsessed. Once I found climbing, though, the shift was complete. I'm actually glad I never became a bull rider, though it still fascinates me.

I've since added sea kayaking to my list of stuff I do, and love to play in the whirlpool gnar of Deception Pass, etc., but if the sun is shining and the rock is dry...climbing still wins.

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Feb 5, 2013 - 11:50am PT
None of this would have happened had it not been for climbing.

Thankfully Chris Mac was into climbing, so he started a website that allowed us to tell are tales
Bad Climber

Feb 5, 2013 - 01:24pm PT
Damn, Vitaly. You my new hero. Hope to see you out in the Sierras some day. Keep the faith.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 5, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
Another reality, where the past doesn't matter, and the only thing that does is here and now- the moment

Ummmm....probably what I love the most about climbing, mountaineering, and sailing.

Thanks Mike for your the first line I thought it was going to be a satire then I went holy sheeeettttt.....

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Feb 5, 2013 - 04:28pm PT
Thanks for sharing what (if I understood you correctly) you don't often share.

Yes. I never shared it with anyone (I shared that I was very overweight, and had asthma but not about how bad it was and not about my skin), till I told my climbing partner this last weekend. It made me feel a bit better about it, because I was not hiding/running away from my past anymore. That's why I decided to share it here. In the past, a few people asked me why I like hard outings in the mountains etc, and I think this story in a way answers that question. Since I couldn't do any sports for most of my life (not by own will), it is natural for me to have the desire to test my body and what I can do. Can I climb this peak? Can I climb El Cap? Can I climb 5.XX? How about all that in a day? etc etc. It is exciting to finally being able to do things. And since I was born after the Chernobyl disaster in an area that got so much radiation, I don't really know if my life will be long or not (lots of people died and continue to die do to cancer in that area). So I try to live the life while I can...who knows what is coming.
...thank you all for positive comments. It means a lot. But let's hear some other stories... :)

Feb 6, 2013 - 09:06am PT
Such a great op and continued probing, Tarbuster, and the responses (from funny to inspiring) are fabulous. Nonetheless, it has been a challenge for me to work through this thought experiment, and I’m not precisely sure why. Part of the issue is perhaps that much of my life without climbing was embarrassingly typical: frustrated, upper-middle-class-White-American-teen (who has to add the "upper" so you know I wasn't really middle class) = an undeserved abundance of resources, most notably a loving family, that all too often I took for granted and did not use for my well-being or others’. Climbing came during a positive transition for me, but what ailed (ails?) me is grossly inappropriate to juxtapose alongside real obstacles to life chances (e.g., radiation fallout from Chernobyl!). I was just a stupid, selfish kid yearning for risks big enough to quiet the angst…an angst that I believed was peculiar to me, but was nothing if not typical, average, commonplace.

So, yes, Roy: I would have found something risky, or at least kept searching, if climbing hadn’t found me. And, because climbing didn’t find me till my early-20s, I had some opportunities to try out alternative risk avenues: skiing and drugs, most notably. Skiing pretty quickly bored me stupid and the drug story isn’t anything we haven’t all heard a thousand times: “crack, yummy…hey where did all my family and friends go?”

Do I look back on pre-climbing pursuits differently than I viewed them at the time? Yes, having kids and teaching them to ski, for example, has been something of a family skiing renaissance – so much more fun than I remembered it.

Shortly before climbing found me, I got loved into a life worth living. Married at 20, we worked our way through college together and mid-way to our undergrad degrees, we started climbing together. It will be 21 years of climbing this year and 25 years of marriage next year.

But, what if the climbing part hadn’t happened? That is the piece I struggle most to answer. Contemplating this last bit evokes melancholy. I’m as screwed up as the next person, but I like where climbing helped take us and I fear that without it I would risk losing things of value. The only pursuit I have tried since climbing that seems similar in its potential to compliment my strengths, alleviate some of my weaknesses, and provide a buzz that keeps buzzing in a health-promoting manner? Surfing (yes, Roy, interesting that it is individualistic! What’s that about??). I’m sure there is other stuff out there too, but I’ve never found it.

Trad climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:38pm PT
cowpoke: You're awfully hard on yourself. Your criticism of yourself in your earlier years reminds me of how I used to view the pains of growing up, rebelling, trying on different pursuits, etc.

Throwing this out there a little differently...I strongly suspect that there are those of us that are driven to find something entirely physically and equally mentally challenging -- something that requires every part of our very being pulling its weight -- so that we can routinely push our boundaries.

There's something about engaging in this pursuit that acts like a "reset" button, after which we are returned to a state of equilibrium...until the clock gets wound again and it's time for another oil change, if you will.

The trouble is, when you're younger, you haven't the slightest idea what to do with the (at times) overwhelming urges to DO something or get rid of the pent up energy. It's not something that is taught -- there's a preconceived notion of what success means that's emphasized in school, advertising, etc. Very rarely are kids encouraged to try everything and not to worry about failure (i.e., everything is graded, with the looming judgment about whether success has been achieved). Try everything that is real (i.e., not a false attempt to escape the present) until you find your place in the world, doing whatever it is that gives you purpose and provides you meaning. Perhaps it is in the round about path that you are eventually able to recognize ultimately what this is?

I'm not sure if what I've written makes any sense. I probably need to noodle it some more.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 6, 2013 - 09:24pm PT

You're drilling into our findings here and hinting at characterization and I'm following you. Notice how few of us mention team sports? And even fewer would be surprised by the absence of team sport interest in the archetypal climber. So much so that it's cliché. But this small sample bears it out. We climbers are searchers.
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