Thursday, February 28, 2013

7:21 AM
Strength in Numbers
I think that rock climbing is either a sport that you love or you are ambivalent towards. I happen to fall into the first category and for me, it was love at first climb. I went for the first time with a friend of mine who had recently started climbing and was gracious enough to invite me along. I had done a lot of mountaineering by that point but had little knowledge about climbing rock faces using a harness and rope. Because we lived in San Francisco the best place to learn was the Mission Cliffs climbing gym which also happened to serve as the biggest pick-up, hook up scene in the city east of the Marina. More on that never...

After patiently teaching me how to tie in, belay and otherwise promise not to kill him, my friend sent me up the wall. I came down sweating, shaking and smiling - it was simultaneously one of the hardest and most thrilling things I had ever done. That was in 2001. I have pretty much been climbing at least twice a week ever since. I am not close to being the best or strongest female climber around, but I do climb hard enough that the difference between sending a climb or not often comes down to the precisest of motions, the exact coordination of breath with movement, and striking the perfect balance between dynamic action and stillness. The beauty of climbing shows up when it looks both hard (as evidenced by bulging muscles and veins) and effortless (bodies seemingly floating through the air as the climber moves from hold to hold).

Climbing is also an amazing way to get to spent lots of time outdoors in beautiful places. While I haven't climbed outdoors much since having my kids, in my prior life I was lucky enough to get to climb throughout California in places like Tahoe, Owens River Gorge, Sonora and Yosemite, as well as on trips to Oregon, Italy and South Africa. Climbing an exposed face, feeling the wind and sun at my back, and moving with grace, precision and sheer force of will was pretty amazing.

Rock climbing is compelling for me because it presents a tremendous mental as well as physical challenge, and it is a lot more fun than lifting weights as a way to stay in shape. As all sports do, climbing seems to attract a certain personality type. In general, to be a climber you have to be extremely focused, self-motivated and goal-orientated. You have to be willing to try and fail many, many times before you have success. And success is so fleeting because all it really means is that now you should try to climb something harder. You are also doing a sport that can be exceedingly dangerous and so you have to keep your head about you at all times. I definitely notice my climbing suffering on the days that I am mentally exhausted or sleep-deprived, and I know several climbers whose fear of heights and falling has imposed limitations on what they are able to do. I also know people who have gotten seriously injured and even died so I am very serious about what I mean in terms of the potential consequences.

All that being said, what I think is especially cool about climbing is that more often than not, you have to do it with a partner. In this crazy, busy life we hardly get to spend the time we would like with our families, much less our friends. For many of us, myself included, our climbing partner is a close friend that we actually get to spend time with, a motivator, and literally the only person in the world that we can count on to catch us every time we fall. 

IMG 1040 from MommyTasker on Vimeo.

I am lucky enough to have been climbing with the same partner since 2001 (see above video of her Getting.It.Done.). Together we span the spectrum of climber body types - she is the compact, muscular dynamo version, I am the taller, lankier (sort of) version. We climb at similar levels, but have very different styles, which can make sharing beta a challenge. Sometimes I can do a climb she can't, and more often than not the roles are reversed. Due to the pure physics of climbing I can say with some certainty that, outside of my immediate family, I have probably never looked at anybody's butt more than I have looked at hers.

We have climbed together through two weddings, four pregnancies, multiple jobs, sprained ankles, busted knees, and everything else that life has thrown our way. Twice a week we meet to encourage each other to send our problems, to support each other through high-gravity nights, and to otherwise help each other to work through the details of our lives. We often laugh, we sometimes cry, and we always show up. 

I know that many of you have found your "climbing partner" in life - be it for walking, running, working out, or meeting for coffee. These are the people that keep us accountable and take us outside of ourselves and our marriages and give us the space to breathe and get another perspective on things while withholding judgement. I just wanted to do this post to say thank you to a great friend and partner whom I look forward to doing many more years of climbing with. I love that we can still out climb all those 20-something guys in the gym and hope that continues for a long time :)
Climb on, sista

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