Last night I was driving home from the Seattle Bouldering Project, talking through a few of the routes with my best friend who is finally back in town and staying with me until he finds his own place again. He started to laugh, and when I asked he said I was just thinking about when you started. How shaky you were, how frustrating it was. Just step up! Just do it!Now you know why it was frustrating. He’s right. I was awful. Everyone who starts is awful, because you have to start somewhere. Out of everyone that I climb with, B knows better than anyone how far I’ve come. I remember sitting in his room, saying, I think I’d like to learn to climb. He responded with something along the lines with, are you sure? Don’t just do this because you feel you have some family story to follow—it’s expensive and an investment. He took me out on my first climb with another friend and they put up something I was never going to be able to finish. I think it was Human Foot, out at Exit 32. This summer I stood at the base of Human Foot, belaying one of my bad ass climbing ladies as she led her first 5.8 outside. I’d just led my first 5.10 outside, a route a few to the left of Human Foot, and I did it clean.
Are you sure you want to learn? I wasn’t sure, at the time. I was mildly afraid of heights, I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into, and climbing was more a theory and a story than anything else. I understand his hesitancy, but I will always love him for taking me on that first climb, and for continuing to take me out. The past two nights we’ve climbed in the gym together—first at Stone Gardens, then at the Bouldering Project. I like to think he was surprised as I moved up routes he’d been working on. He’s out of climbing shape but will regain it back quickly—I’ve been in the gym and outside a lot. He’s probably still a stronger climber than me, and will be able to send things I can’t touch as soon as he has his endurance and finger strength back. Still—for the first time I’m able to work through a sequence and offer suggestions. He asked, for the first time, How did you start that? and I ran through the moves easily for him.
On Sunday night, when we were talking about plans for the week, I said I’m climbing Monday and Tuesday. He wasn’t sure he wanted to come along—Monday was a settle and plan for the week evening while he lived in Hawaii. It’s that for me too, though not with any household chores. My Monday night climbing crew helps keep me more centered than anyone I know. They are my best friends and the people who watch me fail and succeed and we share so many stories and so much laughter. I need Mondays with my friends to set up for my week, and I was glad he decided to come along instead of tending to laundry and grocery shopping. There have been bumps, bruises, scabs and tears—but I can’t wait to get outside with him again and get some more battle scars.