Trip Report
Chronicles of a newbie/possible lifer: To Commit or not Commit?
Friday August 2, 2013 2:25am
In my previous trip reports, many climbers, most of whom I will never meet, have been so supportive in their comments and some have mentioned the term "lifer." All of you, whether you've been climbing for 3 years or 30 years have impressed me by how your commitment to climbing has enriched your life and become a part of your reason for being. It made me think these past couple of months...once the honeymoon phase of starting something new passes, will I commit?

As always, the answer came in reflecting upon climbing experiences this past month.

First and foremost, you have to understand, when it comes to hobbies and interests- it's like I've got ADHD mixed with multiple personalities. I've been known to do a tango class, rock climb, swim, golf, do a meditation class, take a language class and ski all in one week (with a full time career). The good news is, I fit the cliche of the lifetime learner whose always up for any challenge, the bad part is, I fit the cliche of a lifetime learner whose always up for any challenge.

The first climbing commitment test came during a climbing trip to Big Chief near Truckee, California. As someone who got a divorce two years ago and shares half custody of two amazing kids (yes I'm biased), I have come to have a double life: one is the life of late night dancing and selfish hobbies, while the other half is cooking dinner and bedtime stories. But when my 5 year old daughter and I got the chance to have a girls weekend, and we chose to spend it climbing in Tahoe with thirteen of our adult friends from the climbing gym- this is where the rubber met the road. On the mile hike into Big Chief, I'm not sure which touched me more: watching her hold hands with her favorite climbing friends or that the guys in the group gladly took turns lifting her over some of the steep parts. Once we set up a top rope, she eagerly waited her turn to climb a 5.8 route. Although she only made it half way up, it wasn't about succeeding or failing to the top, it was pure joy just to watch her enjoy the experience in the moment. Because after all, that's all we have in life to enjoy anyway, just the moment we're in....nothing less, nothing more.

My 7 year old son on the other hand, has yet to climb outside, but he has spent the summer testing for his permanent belay card at the gym. Though I would rather watch paint dry than watch a little league game, and the idea of a soccer mom lifestyle would give me nightmares, I absolutely dig watching him crush his belay test next to grown men. Never mind the fact that the kid is already in love with engineering, and figuring out climbing routes is right up his alley. It's simply just fun watching him committed to working hard toward mastering a sport that we both happen to love. And when you commit to something you love doing, some how the hard work seems manageable, regardless of what it is.

Once I realized climbing was something where my two lives could blend together, the final climbing commitment test came during a trip to Germany with my German climbing partner. Though I lamented that my suitcase was too small to bring my own gear, I also marveled that a year earlier, it would've never been on my radar to even think about climbing, much less plan to do it on a vacation. I spent a total of 12 days in Deutschland and out of every touristy thing I did, beyond every great beer garden or weiswurst I consumed, my favorite part of the trip was lead sport climbing for the first time. As I tried not to psych myself out as I looked up without a top rope for the first time, instead of committing to the whole route, I decided just to fully commit one grip at a time, one clip at a time and one toe hold at a time. And of course, low and behold, by just staying in the moment, I ended up finishing leading the route....fully committed.

Perhaps that's how commitment in life works- if you look at the long haul, with the overhangs, the massive height or distance, you get overwhelmed at the hurdles to overcome. We can over think the statistics or the logistics of possible success and lose out on some life altering experiences in the meantime. And perhaps as overachievers we tend to only focus or commit to quantitative things we know we can be successful in. Fear of failure makes us walk in life or in relationships with one foot in and one foot out, but it's with that half effort that failure is inevitable and the possible joy of committing to something is lost.

But if we just realize that a whole life is just made up of tiny moments that you can't back, there's freedom in committing to just one at a time. Because when you commit fully to each tiny moment, each possible opportunity, just one day at a time...before you know it, a lifetime of great moments has laughed at any old fears, ignored any failures along the way, and has fulfilled your life in unimaginable ways.

And well...I guess when I put it like that, with one small step at a time, commitment isn't so scary after all...

Not too shabby for a five year old.
Not too shabby for a five year old.
Credit: Letting go

  Trip Report Views: 1,476
Letting go
About the Author
Letting go is a climber from Sacramento, CA.

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Comment on this Trip Report

  Aug 2, 2013 - 10:43am PT
nice profile picture. You are definitely in shape
Letting go

Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 2, 2013 - 11:20am PT
Haha thanks :)
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
  Aug 2, 2013 - 11:29am PT
Kurt Albert, German style
Kurt Albert, German style
Credit: can't say
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Aug 2, 2013 - 12:40pm PT
"Fear of failure makes us walk in life or in relationships with one foot in and one foot out, but it's with that half effort that failure is inevitable and the possible joy of committing to something is lost."

You are so right and I appreciate this share.

There are SO many things we could do in our lives, and climbing is only one of many choices. Whichever choices one makes should be the ones which bring the most joy to the most family members. Your family couldn't make a much better choice. Remember, in deciding to climb and focusing the family on it, you are uniting them and granting them a lot of freedom at the same time. I'll love to see where this takes you guys in the future.

This venturing out to climb with like-minded people, whether gym-rats or vagabonds, is one of the best aspects of climbing. The fellows in Italy before the war ate this stuff up and produced some stunning results, too, with their "clubs." We are more trad than we think, even sport climbing.

You'll be a leading lady soon. Hope you become a star!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Aug 2, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
You'll be a leading lady soon. Hope you become a star!

Mouse voices my thoughts better than I could. Thanks for the post/TR. (Maybe we should call it a life report).


Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 2, 2013 - 12:56pm PT
you posted a TR on the taco, just one sign you're already too far gone.


Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Aug 2, 2013 - 03:17pm PT

if you look at the long haul, with the overhangs, the massive height or distance, you get overwhelmed at the hurdles to overcome.

Reminds me of a Buddhist quote...."The nature of mind is like water. If you do not disturb it, it will become clear."

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 2, 2013 - 07:06pm PT
As a parent of a 2 climbing kiddos, you sound like an awesome mom!!!!!!!!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Aug 2, 2013 - 07:42pm PT
Great comments, it's been so long since I was a newbie I've forgotten what it's like. Welcome aboard........LIFER!
Dr. Christ

Mountain climber
State of Mine
  Aug 2, 2013 - 07:44pm PT
I didn't read the TR, but daaaaaamn!!!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Aug 2, 2013 - 07:50pm PT
I love your writing and introspection! So lovely and flowing. Your daughter is rockin' there for sure.
I had two chances to be a newbie. Climbed some way BITD on the East Coast, then abandoned it for a long while during motherhood here on the West Coast, then picked it up again when my son when to a climbing birthday party when he was 6.
Like your bike! (I'm doing a lot more biking these days than running 'cuz my joints are singing a chorus)


Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Aug 2, 2013 - 08:09pm PT
Very nice.

It's good for me to read your stuff and think about my life on the rocks.

You get "it".

Happy climbing.


Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Aug 2, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
Awesome. The best part of the gym is always seeing the little kids, the 5-10 years olds, in there with their parents just loving it. Always puts a smile on my face.

Seems to make for very confident and socially well adjusted kids. Interacting in the gym with a wide range of age groups, on an equal footing...everyone is climbing and trying hard and there's no kiddie area or separation, they can try anything they want, might be part of it.

Being able to try anything you want is an amazing aspect of climbing when you think about it. I mean, most kids who are into sports at all imagine themselves playing in some grand venue, game, etc. Like "It's the bottom of the 9th, game 7 of the World Series in Fenway, and I'm up to bat with 2 outs"...right? We all did that as kids.

But we can't go play against Michael Jordan at Madison Square Garden in Game 7 of the NBA finals. We can, however, walk up to El Capitan, or any other grand formation, and attempt any legendary route we want. It's like being able to play your sunday pickup soccer game in Dodger stadium.

Don't worry about commitment. You can really get anything you want out of climbing, and commit as little or much as you want. What you want out of it (or have time for) will fluctuate over your climbing career. Life gets busy for a while, no problem, that route isn't going anywhere, it'll be waiting. Welcome to the tribe, and enjoy the ride!
Letting go

Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 3, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
Again, as always I'm blown away by the kind and generous responses. Elcapinyoaz- great points about the access to climbing and how open the opportunities are if we seize the chance to take it.

I'm so appreciative that my life reports have been welcomed by such an expert climbing community. Many of you have figured out, my writing is never really about climbing, but rather the metaphors it teaches me about whatever I'm going through in life. My first love was writing so I'm glad to have found an outlet to do it.

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