Why Your Life Is No Longer Same After You’ve Started Climbing

Climbing forces you to push your limit and question yourself constantly.


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3 years ago | 3 min read

It was the last hard move on the route. After that, a jug and a shower of dopamine. I am hanging good 8–10 meters above the sea on a good, but slippery pinch with my right, and have to make a move with my left for an unspecified edge, the only indication of which are a couple of white chalk marks.

If I slipped, greeting the rock with my face was an option I couldn’t rule out.

Climbing forces you to push your limit and question yourself constantly. I suspect many climbers are, like me, sadomasochistic freaks that love putting themselves through hell just so they feel alive. But why?

If you could see into a climbers’ head, you'd think he suffers from manic depression. Periods of elation, euphoria, and bursts of motivation in one moment are substituted by deep lows and bouts of depression; am I strong enough?

Do I have the correct beta? And it's not just climbing that you start to question — the depression spills over to other areas of your life as well.

In other words, it’s fun. You know, the kind of fun that a smoker suffers during his first week of abstinence, that ultimately turns out to be rewarding.

My one conduit with the wall — forearm muscles — were getting pumped by the lactic acid every second. My shoes, the other medium that kept me on the wall, were wet, slippery, and one size too big. I was standing on an equivalent of a bigger piece of breadcrumb.

Us humans, we are clever… Too clever in fact. We cover most of our flaws underneath the blanket of normalcy. We go to work, we study, and we keep ourselves cozy in our routines just so we don’t have to face our true inner selves. We attribute the wins to ourselves and loses to the circumstance. We see the world through the distorted lens of our beliefs, so any view or idea that comes in contact with confirms what we already think. We also have a burning need for consistency, so that we distort our beliefs, perceptions, and even actions to be congruent with what we’ve already done in the past.

But in climbing, all these mechanisms and funky distortions start to crumble in the face of reality. Because climbing forces us to face the ugly, uncomfortable truth about ourselves — that we are not enough and that we need to improve. The truth that many of us choose to hide.

Looking above me, I see the edge I am aiming for. It’s a bit to the left but within a comfortable distance. All chalked up and ready to be greeted by my sweaty hand. The mental struggle intensifies like the urge to pee when you reach for the doorknob.

The trick, in my opinion, is to constantly put yourself in these situations. It keeps you humble. And it keeps all the mechanisms mentioned above in check. What's more, there is a chance that if you continue putting yourself in these difficult situations — any situations, not just climbing — you'll not only grow tougher, but you'll also start seeing the glimpses of the real You. The ‘You’ you always imagined being. The ‘You’ that many of us give up.

I take a deep breath, reach out to my left and feel the solidity of the edge a split second afterward. It’s as good as I imagined it to be. I smile. But suddenly the breadcrumb-sized foothold and my wet shoe had a disagreement of sorts. Gravity intensifies. A second after, awash in salty, cold seawater, I ask myself why I continue to put myself in these situations.

Funny enough, these are the moments that I look for in climbing — the ambiguity of not knowing, the tedium of routine, and the exasperation of falling over and over again. Because these serve as small reminders of me being alive, of the real Me buried beneath, crawling to the surface. I ended up topping the route my next go.

This article was originally published by Marek veneny on medium.


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