I spent years watching people at our college climbing wall, wanting to join in but holding back for fear of not fitting in/not knowing what I was doing/having people watch me do something I would probably be bad at. I would have started sooner if I could have done it without an audience—but if you’ve ever been to a climbing gym, you know that a constant crowd is a reality.
I finally worked up the courage to start climbing the summer after my junior year and fell in love. The crowd I had assumed to be judgmental and clique-y was open and encouraging. To improve my skills, I took a rock climbing PE class and joined a women’s climbing club. I signed up for some rock climbing competitions when my friends assured me you didn’t need to be “good” to participate. All of these activities increased my confidence, and it didn’t take long for me to feel like I belonged at the wall. So, naturally, the next step was to climb outside.
I don’t climb outside very often—conquering my fear of outdoor climbing is my current challenge. Climbing outside is very different from indoor climbing. Even after climbing for years, I am still scared of falling. It’s pretty well under control when I’m in a gym—I’ve climbed and fallen enough times that I trust the equipment to catch me. But when I climb outside the equipment setup is less controlled, and there’s more room for user error. When I start a route, my hands sweat, my legs shake, and I reach a point where I’m pretty sure I’m about to die. But if I push past the fear, the reward of reaching the top of a difficult climb is huge—especially when I didn’t think I could.
I’m not an adrenaline junkie, nor do I consider myself wildly athletic. That’s part of why I like rock climbing so much. I get to set my own goals and work toward them without limiting those around me. Of course, this sets up an opportunity to beat myself up when I don’t achieve the goals I’ve set. This is where my climbing community helps to build me up by pointing out moves I did well and offering advice on how to approach a problem differently next time.
If you’re interested in rock climbing, go do it! I have no regrets from jumping in except the years I spent standing on the sidelines. I have been climbing for four years now and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Some climbers are really intense, but most are everyday adventurers looking for a challenge. People from every group I can think of are able to climb: old folks, young folks—even folks who can’t walk well or who only have a single arm (seriously, check out this woman!). If you’re scared of heights, climb lower routes and gradually take a few little falls to learn to trust your harness. If you need to work on arm strength, start with routes that rely more on your legs. If you don’t know anyone else who climbs, go by yourself! You can boulder (climb shorter routes without ropes) or find a belay partner through your local gym.
All said, rock climbing is about having fun, enjoying nature, and improving your fitness at the same time. Check out your nearest climbing gym for a dose of adventure!
Written by Kelsey Veldkamp
Brfur Brand Ambassador