Climbing and Community

Last week, my fellow dirt bagging buddy, Neal, texted me to tell me he was coming through the area. I had not seen him in at least nine months, and with one fell swoop, he reminded me of all the amazing and wonderful (and hard and scary and crappy) things I felt during my time on the road last Fall. He asked if I wanted to grab a beer to catch up, and I suggested that we grab a climb or two instead (though beers were also most definitely had).

We met at the park at the base of the canyon to meet up for our climb, and it was as if no time had passed between us. I have some friends like that from home, people I have known for so long that, no matter how much time passes between us, we can still just catch up and realize our friendship is just as strong as ever. I find that this remains true in the climbing community as well. I should probably say that it’s true in my particular circle of the climbing community.

Last Fall, I was traveling on my own, showing up at crags and just seeing who was willing to climb with me. A person who takes on a complete stranger as a partner has to be pretty open minded, especially someone who’s been climbing for less than a year. I think I’m a fairly open-minded individual and can usually trust my instincts about the people I meet. Most of the time there’s a precious synchronicity and understanding that happens with my climbing partners, though they don’t necessarily all stick.

I met Neal in Oregon when he just sat down at my table at the campsite and started talking to me. He had absolutely no qualms about striking up a conversation. With some people, this might have felt aggressive and unsettling, but I could tell that Neal was a well-intentioned person from the start. As we continued talking, it turned out that we knew some of the same people in the West Coast dirt bagging circle, and decided to put up a few climbs together. The conversation was easy, the stoke was high, we had similar philosophies on life (i.e. there are as many different ways to spend our time on earth as there are people), and we enjoyed the day.

We met up again, a month later in Moab, and I did my first ever splitter climbing with him.

Now, I’ve climbed with Neal again, in a different place and different time. Some friendships are built like pin drops on a map. The time and place changes, but eventually you build the web that makes up your friendship, and it works for us.

I followed Neal on some pretty spicey trad climbs up Elephant Buttress in Boulder canyon. It was a granite finger crack that gave was to jugs holds and smeared foot placements. I broke a major sweat following the gear up the rock, and remembered who I was last year. I was a person that managed to find the balance between take life by the horns and being open to what it gave. Remembering that has helped me through a chaotic moment in time, and I can only say that I’m grateful to all the people and systems that made it possible.

Cheers to continuing to find the way that works for you,


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