Letter to Two Climbers (Part 2)

Hello again, it's me! We met climbing a few days ago. I wrote you a letter, but didn't want to leave it on such a pessimistic note. First, I commend you both for getting out there. You both invested a lot in making that weekend happen. You acquired the correct tools, and spent money to do so. You spent time learning how to use your gear, and building the skills you needed to climb outside. You spent a lot of time driving to the crag, spending a night or two out there, and climbing for a few days. (Oh, and gas money, food, and all that.)

Now - not only did you do all those things, but you limited your other options. You could have spent that money on anything else. (Literally. That's what's cool about money! You can spend it for just about anything. Even weed!) You could have spent your time doing anything else. You truly had a universe of options to spend your time and your money, and you spent it on climbing.

A lot of climbers get pretty uppity and exclusive, and I'm just as often an offender, but I sincerely thank you. Climbing's pretty rad, and I'm thrilled to see others getting after it! (And who am I to claim exclusive rights to the sport? I've not done anything amazing. If all I've got on someone is being older or having done it longer, that's a pretty weak case.)

I'm also quite glad you are both safe. No one wants to get injured, or watch someone get injured.

I've been around the block a few times, made plenty of dumb (and not so dumb) mistakes, and learned from some pretty smart people, so, please, carefully consider what I share.

If we keep a few principles in mind, we will stay safe. And, we'll have fun. And we'll get better at climbing.

  1. Fear can keep you alive. Fear is a little (or big) alarm going off saying "Danger! Danger! Something bad can happen!" Last I checked, just about everything we do while climbing has the potential for disaster. We spend minutes or hours at a height where an unrestrained fall would be 100% fatal. I'd say if you don't have an alarm bell going off, you've got something wrong with you. So, pay close attention to your fear. It monitors much more than your conscious attention can, and consequently picks up a lot more from your environment than you could ever consciously identify. Don't poo poo the universe's most impressive bit of biology giving you a warning. This would be arrogance, not bravery.
  2. Never go too far beyond your comfort zone. Want to know what happens when you go too far beyond your comfort zone? Best case, you end up on YouTube, and everyone laughs. Worst case, you are dead. (Or very close to dead.) Public speaking can be scary, but it's unlikely you'll end up dead. Screwing up a technical ascent of K2 will leave you dead nine times out of ten. Sport climbing is closer to climbing K2 than it is to public speaking.
  3. Always go beyond your comfort zone. You know what happens when you don't go beyond your comfort zone? Nothing. And that should scare you just as much as going too far beyond your comfort zone.

That's it for now. Soon, I'll cover how to stay in that sweet spot of a comfort zone. Stay tuned.

Affectionally yours,

-Josh