So I’ve been working for BKB for two and a half years now, and sadly, I must confess…I rarely climb. Most of the folks here make it look effortless, but in reality, climbing is really… really… REALLY hard. In fact, out of all the kicking, punching, weightlifting, and (UGH) running I’ve done during this personal journey, climbing has been the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome. Not only is it hard, but it is FREAKING TERRIFYING. I mean, you’re way up in the air and once you get to the top you are supposed to just let go… like it’s no big deal!
Luckily, I decided to climb with two experienced climbers who also happen to be my BKB besties, Michelle and Meg. I started with a 5.5 route–basically, the easiest rope-climbing route you can do–on the auto belay island. (The auto belay is a machine that slowly takes your rope slack up and then belays you down, slowly, after you are done, so having a partner isn’t necessary to enjoy rope climbing.)
I knew if I thought about it too much I’d get scared, so I just focused my attention on making it to the next hold… and the next hold… and the next. Before I knew it, there I was, at the top of this 30 foot wall. I’d never made it that high before. It was exhilarating. Weirdly that wasn’t the hard part. The hard part, I realized, was letting go. I was hanging out there at the top with Meg and Michelle and they were like, “Okay! Time to come down now.”
And, suddenly, I was completely filled with fear.
I’ve been told there’s this second, or so, of time between when you let go of the wall and when the machine engages, where you feel yourself free falling and you just have to trust that the machine won’t send you plummeting to the floor. I was dreading that. But, Meg and Michelle started counting down, and when I heard the number “one” I felt myself just… let go.
I felt that rush of adrenaline through my body as I kicked my way down the wall and by the time I got to the floor I was filled with pure, unabashed, joy.
I had done it! I had made it all the way up and come all the way down! MEEE!!
Climbing, like music or painting or other creative activities, is one of those things that you get better at every single time you do it. You can feel yourself improving each time, learning more about how to use different muscles to make it to the top. It’s half problem solving and half muscle memory, with a heaping spoonful of courage. Anyone can do it with a little practice, even people with disabilities. Check out for proof. Climbing is best done with a friend or partner, because it’s a really social activity. People share beta (that’s climbing lingo for feedback on how best to make it up the route) and even strangers will cheer you on when you complete a problem (that’s climbing lingo for making it to the top of the route).
Every night I see this kind of joyful connection happening on, and around the walls, at BKB. It’s a really inspiring thing to witness and one of the things I love the most about this community of people.
For your first time climbing, I recommend starting off on the auto belays with a friend or BKB teammate who might be a little more experienced than you to help guide your experience.
Next week: YOGA
Last Week: A Camp for Boots?