It’s good to be back. After over two months of being confined to riding a bike for activity, feeling the muscles strain, visioning the breath flow, sensing the feet reach, focusing on the weight shift ever so slightly to reach the next little finger hold feels like meeting a long, lost friend.
Today I climbed again, not for the first time since the gym opened, but for the first time when I felt like I was back in a groove, when mind and body united to push myself outside of my ego, to put fear in its rightful place and to reach, to feel the journey.
For many I have met, climbing is about finishing the route and getting to the top but for me it is about the joy of immersion into a world where, as Arno Ilgner puts it, I can focus on what I love about climbing, including the stresses, and allow the joy in the experience to motivate me and drive me to be there.
I recall a few years ago now, when a close friend asked me why at my age (I’ll turn sixty in a few months) I would ever do such a thing as climb that I answered, “if you have to ask you will never understand.”
And, as I rested between climbs, as I let my mind drift to all of the experiences I had of this world. I thought back to sun streaked granite slabs, dappled sandstone grottos, salt sprayed limestone, and sketchy loose rock quarries. I thought back to lugging gear, to big falls, to partners who caught these and saved my life, to welcoming climbing gyms with their well laid out problems, to being laid up with a smashed leg, and to the subsequent thrill of returning to the fray a year after that accident.
And I thought back to all those who had climbed with me over time and wanted to embrace all of them for their camaraderie, help and willingness to be a part of my journey and for letting me be part of theirs. To Johan, Elizabeth, Scott, Craig, Katherine, Kyle, Rebecca and most recently Fabienne, I say thank you for sharing this with me.