A climber’s mindset

Climbing – a life philosophy

33°57’57.5″N 35°46’59.1″E

Birds chirping, footsteps trailing on the fallen leaves, waterfalls gushing and running through the campsite. Another regular weekend in the mountains, between the trees. Another regular morning at the crag, between the rocks. Another regular day where he packs his bag, checks his gear, and beyond all else, gets his mind in check.

Out there, it’s just him and the rocks. It’s him and everything he knows so well how to do. He takes a look at the route – his project that he knows by heart now – and gets ready, body and mind. Because climbing is so much more than physical capacity. Climbing means going so high to reach your limits and then going even higher, setting new boundaries with every single climb; every single move. And he knows that by now.

There on the wall, he feels unstoppable. He most certainly has the skills. The drive and resilience to push a little harder and go a little higher are anchored in the deepest parts of his being. The will to get what he wants takes over and he is one with the wall. This is not to say that he doesn’t assess the risks of failure; of falling. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He knows the risks, accepts them, and even embraces them, but he progresses on his route not having the shadow of a doubt that he will succeed; because eventually he will.

Down there at the bottom of the 40-meter wall, the world is on hold. Everything around him stops moving for a while. The voices of everyone around him become nothing more but distant echoes in the mountains; their faces, mere shadows disappearing into the distance. Within minutes, he starts his long climb. He is not focused on sending the route, and instead wants to enjoy the climb every step of the way. He knows for a fact that every decision on the wall counts, so he has to be armed with his best weapons: self-reliance and patience. Even the smallest of decisions can make the biggest of differences; one tiny move to the right and he doesn’t quite catch it, moving his feet too high or too low and he doesn’t quite make it.

Climber: Mohammed Sleem
Photo credit: Nabih Achkar

It’s about the unequalled feeling of achievement and pride you get from doing what you do best: Climb.

Ghina chehwan

He knows that the higher he climbs, the more extreme everything becomes. Halfway through the route, when things seemed to finally have aligned, he doesn’t quite catch it and takes a fall. Hanging on that rope, in the middle of nowhere, you could feel his disappointment from miles away. Many would think that he hit rock bottom; many would wonder why he keeps going; many would question his ability to find a way to continue; many would ask why he hadn’t chosen another sport, something less risky and less challenging. But for him, the answer is obvious: he found himself in climbing. He found it in him to keep moving forward, even when he fell; especially when he fell. He found it in him to keep falling forward. Because each fall meant a new lesson. Each fall meant discovering new ways not only to climb, but also to live. There is no room for success or failure, only learning.

See when you’re as passionate as he is, you don’t climb for the audience, you climb for yourself and only yourself. He is focused not on the sending, but on the learning. It is the similarities between life and climbing that have always blown his mind away. Being given the opportunity to self-reflect and explore is far greater than any sending. Being given the chance to truly understand himself, to see where his limits lie and break them, to understand how he can live more and be more is his greatest reward.

Everything about this sport makes him come back for more. From the chalky face, to the bleeding fingers and the calloused hands. From the pounding heartbeats to the pumped forearms and the sore legs. Everything about climbing fascinates him: from the sunrises that blow his mind away, to the sunsets that take his breath away. But beyond anything else, it is walking that tightrope between risk and safety; it is the way he builds the endurance and problem-solving ability both body and mind that makes him get up, and try again.

To him, climbing is not about the sending or the grades. It’s not about the route or the moves. Climbing is about the people and the friendships. Climbing is about those close ones with whom you can share the “that was so close, I almost had it” moments. It’s about the post climb gatherings that last into the night and about the plans you make for the upcoming weekend. It’s standing on top of the mountains you only see in pictures with the people who matter most, feeling empowered, and inspired. It’s about patience, resilience and hard work. It’s about learning that there is no shortcuts to success, and if you want it, then you have to stop at absolutely nothing to get it. Climbing is about falling and getting up, and trying one more time only to fall again before you finally rise. It’s about that unequalled feeling of achievement and pride you get from doing what you do best: climb.


Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com