Climbing is a Drug. Well, at least there are lots of similarities. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say climbing is an addiction. This analogy isn’t new to climbing. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen T-shirts making the same statements and have read it in other places as well. I’ll be honest, the only thing I have to compare it to is caffeine and coffee, which I find my self addicted to mentally if not physically. Even without personal experience, if you pay attention, you probably know a thing or two about drug addictions and what drives people to use drugs. Drawing from that pool of knowledge, it’s not hard to see the similarities
You hear about people drinking to drown their sorrows, smoking to relax their stress, and the whole concept of psychadelics is to live, if only briefly, in an alternate reality. I’m attracted to climbing for the sheer joy of the activity, but it also fulfills all three of these needs for me. The high school I went to was an academically rigorous one in which your day from 8-10 was filled with school related responsibilities. It was the definition of stressful. The 2-3 hours a day where the climbing team escaped to the cliffs of Rumney was just that, an escape. For those 3 hours we were living in an alternate reality, where all that mattered was climbing. The act its self is so mentally engaging (if you think about something else you fall), that it is a form of meditation. Your mind is focused on one singular activity, and the rest of the days stress, worries, and happenings ceased to exist. I find that its the times when I am stressed, sad, or cynical about the realities of this world that I need climbing the most, and it means the most to me. Conversely, its the times when I can’t climb for an extended period of time (5 days off is a long time for me!) that stress, sorrow and depression creep in. Climbing is simply fun. There’s no real way to describe the joy I get from various climbing activities, but I’ve never questioned that either. Climbing is fun for what it is, but it’s also fun for what it isn’t, and that realization is what I’m pondering here. Climbing as an escape.
As an addict of an illicit substance might, climbers sometimes go on benders, where you are consumed by your addiction 24-7 for days on end. After a month of illness and bad weather I went on just such a bender this past week when the weather was finally good enough to climb any day you want. These periods are marked by high stoke, both on and off the cliff, and usually accompanied by an abandonment of various responsibilities and relationships in favor of more climbing time (sorry mom!). In the past week I got to climb 5 days out of seven, forcing my self to rest the other two days only because I knew it would help me climb better on my days on. Those days at the cliff where high energy. I was thrilled to be back out on rock, no matter the route, and around other climbers, no matter wether they were regular or occasional partners, friends, new acquaintances or strangers. I guess more significantly is that over this week climbing also occupied almost every hour of my nights and off days. This time was filled with climbing related activities; perusing the inter webs of climbing, scouring youtube and my climbing DVD collection, or writing down climbing thoughts of my own (yes, this whole blog idea is a direct result of the bender!)
That week is over and a new one has begun. Hopefully the bender has served to balance, or at least, to move my life back towards the balance of work and play that was unsettled by the month off. Let’s face it, climbing isn’t reality; it doesn’t help others, it doesn’t feed you, and it doesn’t usually fulfill you’re intellectual needs as a curious human being. Climbing remains special in part for what it isn’t, which means you need to maintain the “isn’ts” of your life too. What that balance is for each of us I think varies from person to person as well as in time for each individual, but I’m adamant that it’s there.