I Don’t Enjoy Rock Climbing Anymore

Note for James: Since writing this, Sam has been climbing more, and seems to be enjoying it again. It will stay here until he decides to take it down or comment further.

I never thought I’d say that, but last weekend it was true. The magic is gone. I have to confess.

I didn’t have fun. I seriously would have almost preferred to sit on the couch watching TV. Or at least tuning and fiddling with my ski gear. Nearly all my outdoor climbing recently has been type III fun. I’m scared the whole time. Not in an exciting I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that way, in a dull terrified this-is-fucked way. When I get off the climbing there’s no satisfaction at all, just relief.

I can’t trust anything. I don’t trust the belayer to catch me, I don’t trust the rope not to break, I don’t trust the rock, I don’t trust the shoe rubber on smears, I don’t trust my own decisions.

Every time my grigri slipped on the rap ins at Point Perp my heart skipped. I was certain I’d death grip the lever and hold the cam open as I slid to the bottom. I visualised what would happen to my friends when all their gear blew and their belay blew and they landed on the boulders eighty meters below. And everyone’s smiling and laughing. Can’t any of you see how fucked this sport is?

I led a grade 7 and a grade 8. I stopped at the wrong stances. I was a hesitant shaky mess. My gear was shit, I knew it, I didn’t use the slings I knew I needed to use, but I left it and kept on climbing past it. I yarded and stood on loose blocks. I wobbled to the top. The moves weren’t interesting and it just felt pointlessly dangerous. I really believed it was a waste of my time. I was worried I’d drop my second. Using a grigri.

A year ago I felt I had it all. I was redpointing and working the hardest and best sport routes I’d ever tried, I was leading and pushing as hard as I ever had on gear, I was psyched on new routes and bought a drill.

What happened? Is this really all from the accident I had in August? Right now climbing isn’t worth it. I don’t love it, I just feel obliged to use my gear because I paid money for it.

And in the midst of this people have the gall to tell me to “just get on it”. Go fuck yourselves. “The only thing that’s going to turn this into an epic is you freaking out”. Oh really? Fuck off. I’ve been climbing long enough to know what I’m up for. And if any of you try to tell me what I “need” to do after you read this I will freaking slap you.

I’ve also lost the illusion that all climbers are automatically amazing perfect people. Climbers are just people. Many a great. Many are assholes. Most can be selfish, and many have problems just like anyone.

Maybe this is all just a bad case of Point Perpendicularitis. I’ve always frozen up trying to climb there. I’d go to a psychologist but if I said “I no longer feel the desire to risk death scaling cliffs in arbitrarily dangerous ways, for the sake of style and aesthetics” I’m not sure they’d see the problem.

I think I might take up bouldering for six months or so. I’m weak as hell but at least I’ll have the feeling of progress in a comfortingly small artificial world.


One thought on “I Don’t Enjoy Rock Climbing Anymore

  1. I feel this. I almost died in Peru going to a high altitude sports(4500 meters) climbing area called Hatun Machay. I don’t believe almost dying is an exaggeration either. I can’t remember having any fun climbing there, the elements were harsh, the climbing was not world class, the air was thin and I got extremely sick shortly after being there. My saving grace was two Swiss climbers hanging out in the cabin, one happened to be a Doctor and had brought a lot of extra medication they could spare me. I believe I slept a majority of 72 hours over a 5 day period and could feel all the warmth disappear from my body the first few days I was ill.I felt so weak and tired, I was resigned to dying in that filthy cabin in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain, far away from any clean medical facilities in a 3rd world party of Peru for no good reason. It took me months to recover from whatever that illness was, on top of various injuries I have sustained over the course of my climbing career, I had enough. I couldn’t look at the sport or the people in the community the same way again without imagining the risks associated with it. The excitement I felt when I first started climbing that I shared with others was extinguished. Every time I hear a climber enthusiastically talk about their plans for climbing, I cannot relate. I see my interactions with climbers to be shallow and the hobby in general to be a waste of time. I have lost nearly all the friends that I used to climb with simply because I refuse to go out and climb. From my perspective, they seem to take it as either a personal affront, or just don’t understand why I feel so strongly about it. Even if they do understand who wants to put a damper on their own fun to take on someone else traumatic experiences.

    That coupled with the fact that my own privilege that I felt traveling around in “Cheap” countries, climbing big rocks, while meeting many people, working hard and struggling to just make a living made me feel extremely ashamed.

    I think its just something that if you haven’t experienced, it’s hard for others to relate, despite your best efforts to externalize.I am doing my best to move on and do other things that feel “healthier” and “safer”. Maybe I’ll find my love for climbing again in the future, but right now I’m fine with just lifting weights, going to the climbing gym occasionally and going back to school to learn something that I can use to help myself and others.

    You are not alone


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