I've been climbing full time since March 2017
Hey Kaya! Can you make a video about hitting the road as a climber? How skilled were you when you started? Is it better to be a fully competent trad climber before starting? How often do you climb with knowledgeable climbers and how often are you taking novices? And most importantly, how do you not get in over your head?!
I am a rock climber. I’ve been climbing in the gym and outside since I was 20 years old, I’m 25 as of the writing of this post, so 5 years in total. However the last year has really been the year I’ve dedicated myself fully to rock climbing.
When I first had the plan to hit the road and climb full time I had no partner, no crack climbing skills, and no trad rack. So what did I do? I drove aaaalll the way to the crack climbing mecca, Indian Creek in Utah. I figured that I could find a partner while I was out there, I didn’t actually understand the concept of crack climbing or trad climbing. I think I thought that there would, obviously, be bolts that I could clip my quickdraw to? Anyway, safe to say I was completely completely unprepared to actually climb anything out there.
I drove myself out to Indian Creek and by some stroke of luck or divine interference I met up with this rad chick, Sarah, who had posted on the communal board in the campground that she was looking for a partner.
I’m really glad she didn’t just tell me to take a hike, because I basically showed up and told her I would belay her on anything she wanted but I didn’t have a rack. To non climbers, this is a rack!
Many things go into a rack, including quick draws, alpine draws, carabiners and cams.
This is basically the only way to make it to the top of a lot of climbs, you need to place this gear into the cracks in the rock, clip your carabiner to the rope and then keep going.
Sarah was awesome and showed me how to crack climb. To make matters worse, I only had my very tight fitting bouldering shoes, which are exactly the opposite type of shoes you want for crack climbing.
In summary? I was a HUGE kook and I had NO IDEA what I was doing out there. However, that didn’t stop me from falling in love with trad climbing.
I even lead 3 whole pitches while I was out there, the north six shooter, a wide climb called tom cat and some unnamed 5.10.
Since then I’ve pretty much been climbing and traveling non stop. I have been back to Yosemite and Indian Creek, I’ve been out to Joshua Tree and even back home for a little while.
As a climber, I climb with people who have all different skill levels. I climb with people all the time who are consistently climbing waaaaay harder than me, but are stoked to hang out and I’m stoked to learn from them. I also spend a lot of time with people who are just getting in to trad climbing and it feels really good to be able to help people along in that journey. I like showing my friends how to put on tape gloves and how to hand jam, how to tell if rock is rotten or not, and how to place good gear. Teaching someone something I love is really cool because I get to relive those early moments in rock climbing that made me fall in love with it.
Seeing that excitement in a newbies eyes makes me remember why I love this lifestyle in the first place.
If you are thinking of getting into rock climbing and want to rock climb full time, I say do it! But try to keep in mind that climbing is dangerous. I know people who’ve popped a piece and hit the ground or ‘decked’ as we call it. I’ve seen the stitches in people’s heads from those kinds of falls. I’ve personally burned the skin off my hands, smacked my head, ripped off all the skin on the backs of my hands, pulled a tendon in my thigh, tweaked my shoulder.
ALL THAT SAID. Climbing is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever decided to do with my life. It brings me the most insane joy I’ve ever felt, and also the most terror and exhaustion.
When I’m climbing I try to remind myself that any day I get to go climbing is a good day. I also do my best to keep the ego out of it. It can be so easy to beat up on myself for not being able to climb this grade or send that climb. But I have just as much fun, if not more fun sometimes, climbing 5.5 as I do climbing 5.11 or attempting 5.12.
If you’re trying to start out, I would recommend going climbing with a friend who knows what they are doing, or better yet go to a gym and see if they have some classes, ask a lot of questions and actually listen to the responses, make sure you understand all the mechanics of the gear you are placing before you climb on it. But also, take some risks, push yourself a little bit. Instead of feeling defeated by failure, try to look at the climb in a different way and try again.