You know you’re a climber when you aspire to live out of a van. I have only been climbing for two and a half years. I still flail at times, my leg sometimes shakes, but my psych is high. Climbing has served as a great outlet for my love to travel. I can dabble with the touristy activities, but after a couple hours in a museum or one bus tour, I’m over it.
My great friend and climbing partner, Amy, and I found ourselves in a blue moon situation, both craving changes and freedom to explore new places. And oh yea, we wanted to climb! So we quit our jobs (at the same company), moved out of our apartments, sold our belongings and hit the opened road. We traveled via Amy’s Grandparent’s van all around the country stopping at the following crags: Spearfish (Spearfish, SD), Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon (Lander, WY), American Fork (outside Salt Lake City, UT), Shelf Road, Boulder Canyon and Clear Creek Canyon (Colorado), Red River Gorge (Slade, Kentucky), The New River Gorge (West Virginia), Foster Falls and the Stone Fort (Chattanooga, TN), back to The Red River Gorge (because we love it so big!), then off to Siurana, Spain, and then ending with Red Rocks Canyon (Nevada, I know it doesn’t seem to make sense, but I was there for a wedding).
Here’s just a few of the many lessons I learned:
- If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Whether it’s figuring out the approach, climbing line or that sketchy dude, if your gut tells you something is off, it probably is. Time to re-evaluate.
- Zip all your pockets before using a pit toilet (this is self-explanatory)
- Know your limits—and then push them. Expanding your comfort zone means constantly pushing yourself beyond what currently feels “safe”, so you need to work to distinguish which is actually not safe vs. what is just freaking you out.
- Camp cooking doesn’t have to be extravagant or taste horrible, it can be simple and delicious.
- A little whisky helps, a swig warms you right up when the temps drop at night.
- There are pits and peaks. It didn’t feel like a vacation and it wasn’t all smiles and selfies; there were tears, grumpiness and exhaustion, which made the sends, smiles and singalongs even better.
- S’mores are the best recovery food. It’s science.
- Enjoy the vista. There’s a lot of down time, but sit back, chill out and take it all in. We are so use to go-go-go, need to do more mentality, but letting that go and just being is so rewarding.
I am not an expert climber, traveler or van owner (yet), but I can say the biggest takeaway for me was don’t stop learning cool $!*%. Just because we’re “adults” doesn’t mean we know what we know, we can constantly expand our horizons by learning and growing, whether it’s progressing in climbing, traveling to new places or taking up a new hobby.
I’ll end with this anecdote a friendly woman (I think her name is Val) who has been climbing for over 20 years told us. She thought campfires and the care-free spirit and child-like comradery they represent were a thing of the past after she grew up and stopped going to camp. Life got in the way of her campfires—careers, expectations, relationships, but she started climbing and found herself once again, sitting around a campfire sharing stories and beta with people of different ages, background and jobs (or lack thereof). We all had one thing in common—we we’re excited for another day of climbing.
Thank you to Amy for all the talks, belays and not weird silence, to her Grandparents for their kindness and letting us live out of their van and to the people we met along the way that made our trip so memorable.