Today, some thoughts from a "Woman who climbs." (Climber?) Can you spend 10+ years going on climbing trips without becoming a "Climb-er?"

I don't expect us all to agree. I can say for myself, in moments of frustration when I am starting to wonder why I even participate in this stupid sport, start comparing myself to others, think about selling all my climbing gear because "What. Is. The. Point?" Im glad that there are a few people at the crag not experiencing a high or low simply related to performance or achievement. A few people talking about something other than how I can get through the crux and miming every move at me. A few people who think it sounds fun to brew up some coffee on top of a tower with a view, or take a minute to lay on a flat rock and watch the clouds. To tell me who they are outside of climbing. What defines a "climber," anyway?

Measuring a persons worth based on how hard they climb, or are willing to push themselves in an arbitrary activity that I happen to value, would lead me to missed opportunities and fewer friends. Levity is often hard to find when I AM the serious matter. Friends who can pull me out of that head space without helping me make excuses (because they see no excuses needing to be made) is invaluable to me. 

Photo Credit: Jessica Fuller @vanleeuwen727

Photo Credit: Jessica Fuller @vanleeuwen727

Jessica Fuller                                                                                                                                 Outdoor and Indoor Educator

As a person working in the outdoor industry, I am often asked if I am “a climber.” My response is always the same: “I have gone climbing, but I wouldn’t consider myself ‘a climber.’" But of late, I have wondered what if anything, I have to do different or special to earn that “-er” at the end of my title.

It’s a joke among my girlfriends that I have organized more climbing trips than many people who actually regularly climb (i.e. “climbers”) I have found that the promise of some sweet sunsets and painful hand jams is enough enticement to get my vagabond friends to pencil in their calendars, pack the car or buy the plane ticket. I don’t own a rope or a rack, but I like to contribute to the vision, so I volunteer to bring snacks. While others sit around sifting through their #2s and plan their routes, I sift through various cracker options and prepare the cheese-itizers.

I am happy to spend time with them at the bottom of cliffs, or meet them in the campground while they pursue a goal harder than my ability or interest. I like to watch people climb and see how they dance their way through a physical math problem, even though I know that my preference of watching rather than doing can be a puzzle in itself to others at the crag. I usually do a few top rope routes, or some straightforward lead climbs. When I get tired and spent, I ask to be lowered. Many times I’ve heard, “You can’t end on that!” a good natured cheer, pushing me to give it one more go, gain one more inch. And my response is always the same: “Yes I can!”

And to the amazement of many, I do.

You see, the message I often hear about climbing is to “get after it,” “crush,” “send,” and so on and so forth. I’m happy at the level I climb. I don’t like pushing myself on, "the sharp end,” where I get nervous or scared. I have enough of that intensity and pressure in other parts of my life. My way of going about enjoying the sport of climbing – being outside, taking in the beautiful views, listening to the sounds of my friends grunting in the background – may be different than the high octane photo spreads in “Rock and Ice,” and that’s okay. No title necessary.