People

Why do people climb?

“Imagine feeling unstoppable…”

Endurance athlete and dedicated climber Sophie Radcliffe reflects on the power of climbing. This is the rush of the mind that so many chase when scaling everything from indoor walls, to immense vertical rock faces.

Demanding strength of body and force of mind, climbing is more lifestyle than hobby.

It brings people together—doers, daredevils, conquerors, wild ones, adventurers and adrenaline junkies—and takes you to the edge of it all.

A CERTAIN ENERGY AND CURIOSITY

Even the earliest mountaineers had a playful streak. When grilled on why he was planning to climb Everest, George Mallory replied “Because it’s there”.

As climbing evolved and hit the mainstream, new disciplines and pursuits emerged from its roots: bouldering, top-roping, leading, sport, speed, free solo…  

But through it all, that lively, almost juvenile energy and curiosity remained.

It became synonymous with a climbing community that grew in massive numbers, and was epitomised by the rise of the “dirtbag” culture—where people abandoned the rat race in pursuit of a life of pure and total climbing.    

Dirtbagging may well have seen its heyday, but our bug for adventure lives on.

With over 400 climbing gyms in the US alone, the sport is now more accessible than ever before, and looks set to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE

Climbing is as much about the lows, as it is the highs—it’s a balancing act.

“It’s walking this tightrope between risk and security, the endurance and problem-solving for mind and body, that keep me coming back for more,” says Radcliffe as she makes comparisons between climbing and life.

People may have different motives for climbing, but it will always give cause for you to grow new skills, focus the mind, set bigger goals, all the while developing the know-how and courage that’s required to achieve them.

It offers Radcliffe (and so many others), “the chance to explore inwardly, to understand who I am, where my limits lie and how I can live more and become more”.

Even when you’re putting yourself through hell, questioning your choices and on the verge of giving up, there’s an unspoken reason to keep going. It’s about building on your struggles and overcoming things you once thought impossible. 

“Every day is a school day and I learn something new which each adventure.”

Nothing compares to breaking down walls of the mind and body. And for climbers, their passion facilitates this sense of accomplishment, personal growth and euphoria.

“One of the greatest things in life is accomplishing what others say you can not.” - Kathy Karlo

THE FIRST CLIMB IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST  

It might seem like a pipedream right now. But when you surrender yourself to climbing, you’ll come to find the world at your feet. The community is one of a kind, and there’s bags of opportunity to get involved at local gyms and clubs.

Everyone is there for the same reason, so don’t feel intimidated.

If you’re unsure what you’re doing, organise a lesson.

Work on your fitness and core strength.

Maybe you go to the gym already, and you can adapt your workout to help you climb more freely. Alternatively, if you haven’t got a membership, there are tons of great exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home.

And be sure to try your hand at different types of climbing too. You’re likely to prefer one class over the rest. So find your favourite, and focus on turning it into your specialty.

THE PERFECT DISTRACTION

For many, climbing is more than just another weekend activity.

It’s an art, an obsession, and a source of happiness. It drives people to do fantastically crazy things just to prove they’re doable. It’s a distraction from everything.

The sport may have changed over the years, but continues to endure. And there’s little doubt that those who head for new heights are among the most headstrong, gregarious and passionate people you’re ever likely to meet.

We’ll leave you with one final thought from Sophie Radcliffe…

“Climbing is about people. About friendships, partnerships, and sharing “that was close” moments” reflects Radcliffe. “It’s about the post-climb beers that last late into the night, and planning future adventures. It’s about standing on the summits of mountains you’ve only seen in pictures and read about in books.”

You can read more about Sophie’s adventures here.

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