Breathe, move, climb, repeat.
Yesterday I was climbing outdoors (the attached picture is from another time, though), precariously perched in an awkward position. A host of emotions flooded through me as I worked my way through a long, grueling, and often times terrifying route. But I made it to the top (with falls in between, mind you). As I came down from my climb, sweaty and tired, with leaves, dust, chalk, and spider webs caught in various parts of my body, I could only think of why I love this sport so much.
Many years ago, I was asked to write a piece on climbing, which was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in the Philippines. Years after it came out, my reasons for doing it still remain true. I’d like to share this piece with you:
Why I’d Rather Be Climbing
“Okay, how do I solve this?” I ask myself as I teeter on the tiny dimples of a limestone rock face more than fifty feet above the ground. I have to find a better place to rest—my hands are gripping small pieces of rock, and my calves are cramping up from the unstable position I’m in. I am craning my neck and scoping the higher sections to find a better, more stable area to rest. The only big piece I see is more than an arm’s length away to my right, which isn’t so far, except that if I miscalculate, I risk falling down 15 feet. The thought of that long fall makes me antsy, but I gather my wits and aim for that big, stable piece of rock. I count to three, and throw my right hand to grab my salvation, only salvation turns out to be a mirage. What I expect is a large chunk of rock, but it’s actually an ultra-smooth surface. My right hand slides right off, my feet pop out of the dimples, and I plunge 15 feet down. My arms and legs are flailing helplessly in the air, and my rope tied to my harness and handled by my trusted climbing partner, finally catches me. I am shaking, then I look down at my climbing partner and friends in shock, look back at the rock face, and climb my way back up.
I’ve been in this sport for eight years. What started out as a weekly visit to the climbing gym developed into to serious training three times a week, joining national (and some) international competitions, and traveling around and out of the country to rock climb. I do it because it strips me down to the raw me. When I’m up on the rock, faced with a sparse amount of hand and foot holds, I have no other companions but my breathing (heavy when it’s a challenging route), my mind (sometimes restless, other times in control), and my body (contorting into positions that help me get through an extremely difficult position). I am vulnerable, and I love it.
Through climbing I’ve learned to take risks, accept mistakes (mine and others’), and realize that it’s okay to fall—whether it’s off the wall (or out of love). It may take me longer to climb up a route than other people, or I may fall more times than others, but in the end, it’s all about taking on something seemingly impossible and making it into a reality.