When I first took to the towering twenty-foot walls of the Wheat Ridge Recreational Center in the autumn of 2004 I was a doe-eyed lad of eighteen. I had been climbing once before, in 2001 or 2002, and never thought about climbing again until a freak racquetball accident turned my attention to the curious grey, grip-covered wall. Every day after school I would drive my baller ’87 Buick Century to the Rec Center and climb for the three hours that the wall had staffed belayers. At the time I was obsessed solely with achieving the summit, clawing my way to the top by any means necessary. I enjoyed working at height and feeling the air, all twenty feet of it, underfoot.
A few years later I was working at ROCK’n & JAM’n and climbing had taken over my life. No longer was I drawn to the heights provided by roped endeavors; bouldering was my bag, baby, and I was driven to do the hardest moves I possibly could. Three days a week I trained with Athletik Specifik to improve my power, contact strength, and overall fitness. College afforded an easy schedule and I was able to climb outside three to four days a week. Excursions were made to Hueco Tanks and Joe’s Valley on the regular and summers were spent in the alpine solitude of Rocky Mountain National Park. Times were good and I tasted success at grades well beyond my initial expectations.
Now I feel as though I have entered a new phase of my climbing life cycle. While I am still drawn to difficult power moves and the desire to send the gnar has not diminished much, other facets of the climbing experience have bubbled to the surface of my psyche. Mostly, intense beta and intricate sequences are now the focus. I’m learning to think with my legs as much as my arms, to pay attention to body positioning and how minute adjustments in ankle angle can affect the solidity of a heel or toe hook. In the past if a move or sequence was troublesome the solution was always pull harder, get stronger. The current solution is thinking, hypothesizing new beta to utilize strength already possessed, analyzing failure and learning from mistakes. Old habits die hard, and the new crux is remembering all this beta, remembering to think outside the box. Slowly, I improve.
Perhaps the key factor to my long term, committed relationship with climbing is the evolving nature of my desire to climb. From the purely adrenal excitement of height to the brutish power of physical performance to the complex intellectual process of problem solving, there remains always a new challenge, a new approach, a new discipline to master.
It is worth noting that these motivational mutations were not forced or decided upon. They came like a sea change, unnoticed until after the effects were felt. One must remain perceptive to these alterations and embrace them when they come.