Album of the day: Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Spotlight Song: Hiss Golden Messenger – Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer
For the “pretty good” climber.
Notice: This is based off of my climbing friends and our abilities. This is not meant as a serious guide or evaluation of climbing/ behavior and is for comedy/personal reflection.
Just a reminder – a guidebook is no substitute for skill, experience, judgement and lots of tension. Charlie Fowler
You go climbing 2-3 times a week. Sometimes less depending on how you feel or how busy you are. You’re better than a newb but not as good as those semi professional sport/ trad climbers at the gyms that are just training for their next multi pitch. You eat kind of healthy and probably talk to a few people or hang around and stretch when you’re not feeling up to the climb. You’re an average climber and your friends might think you’re way cooler than you actually are. Depending on which gym you go to, you can be a god or a plebe. My gym grades a bit harder than outside climbing grades so your 5.10s outdoor are actually 5.9s and they humble you. Their climbs are sometimes unrealistic because they wouldn’t be something that you come across outdoors– but they’re fun! Sometimes, you’ll go to another gym and climb 5.12s but climb somewhere else and climb a 5.8+ with difficulty. If you only boulder, you’re called a “pebble wrestler” and take yourself pretty seriously when lead/top rope climbers don’t. If you lead climb, you might think you’re a bit cooler than you are. You compare yourself to the more experienced climbers and want to help those that are a bit lower than you in climbing grade. When you started climbing more, you might have given other climbers a lot of beta without their consent and looked like an asshole. Appreciated, but not wanted. Your friends at the gym are uplifting and always willing to give beta or a belay. They’re there to motivate you and guide you but will never make you feel bad for not completing something (unless they’re a dick).
So, you’re good but not GOOD, good. You don’t receive medals or get paid sponsorships but you’re a champ to your family and friends when you bring them around. They probably sucked or complained the first time about how high and hard the walls are. Mediocre and proud, climbing means that you don’t do weighted pull ups (ouch) outside of the climbing gym (or at all to be honest). Climbing 5.9s-5.11s is about your range for walls and V3-V5 is your bouldering capacity (if the gyms are honest and not grading easy). Your style is trial and error with a mix of recklessness and risk. Some days are great, some days suck. All days climbing are worth it. You take it personally when a climb doesn’t go your way and make a project of it until your skin and finger pulleys beg you to stop.
If you’re a daredevil, know your limits and only push a little bit past them. If you hyperextend anything, you’ll be out of the game for a month at least and go down a grade or two. Understand your body. Ice your body and then heat it when necessary. Drink a bunch of water and don’t look at the number on the climb as a determining factor of your self-worth. Those people who do intense climbs definitely put a lot more work into their workout regimen and have a completely different understanding of this craft than you do. If you want to be better, ask to train with them.
Hitting a plateau sucks but I learned that you need to have a balance of bouldering for strength and leading (as well as running) for endurance. I stretch every few climbs so that my body doesn’t crack more than it already does. Bodies are different and they allow us to climb differently but EVERYBODY needs to stretch. Also, eating before or during your workout will weigh you down (literally).
When and if you climb outside, you’ll notice that the gym doesn’t entirely prepare you for outdoor climbing. Outdoor bouldering is so much worse. My worst calluses were bloody scraps of skin that I lost only 3 feet off the ground. Leading is a scramble because nothing is tagged and the chalk marks are so scattered and plentiful that you don’t know where one climb starts and another begins. You fucking love this though.
Finally, ask questions and ask for help. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the climbing community will always be down to help you with whatever you need—it’s just a part of the general feel of the community. It’s better to ask for help than to do something that could have been avoided by asking for help. Whatever your reasons for the dedication, you love what you do and who you do it with. Your gym is like a proud gang that probably talks about how other gyms don’t challenge them just because you’re loyal to your own. Your pride, your pack, and your purpose are good enough. Here’s to the okay climbers; we’re here for a good time.