It’s All About the People
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Nothing has a bigger impact on your life trajectory than your friends. Likewise, nothing has a bigger impact on your climbing growth than your partners.
In climbing you can dream about a route for months, but once you summit, the experience starts to fade as you turn to new goals. In the end, friends are the anchor that turn the ephemeral process of seeking out adventure into something lasting.
During the past 6 weeks I got to climb around the country with 8 different partners (something I feel extremely lucky about). The uniqueness each person brought to the trip reminded me that while I love exploring the outdoors on my own, it’s the people that bring it to life.
Here are two examples:
One of the best days of the trip involved little climbing. I was joined by three friends as we drove from Vancouver to Squamish. Everyone was crammed into my Hyundai Elantra with suitcases on their laps, when we saw a traffic sign saying there was a 5-hour delay on the only road into Squamish.
Changing plans in groups is awful, but as we talked through the options, we made the right choice. We avoided Awful Option A (saying, “Screw it, let’s keep driving,”), Bad Option B (going on a 12-mile hike in the rain), and settled on Option C: renting a boat to explore Vancouver bay. Three hours of boating and a couple beers later, the road had cleared and we cruised into Squamish at 4 pm.
At this point I thought the day was over but with hours of summer sun left, we parked our car and knocked out 5 pitches of fantastic climbing. We reached a belay station on the Apron just in time to catch one of the best sunsets of the trip — shafts of light cutting through Squamish Valley.
Belaying for the Win
Earlier in the trip I had a similar change of plans. My friend and I were climbing at Smith Rock and on the first climb of the day, I injured my finger tendon warming up. My vision of knocking out hard climbs all day deflated; and all I could do was groan as the 95-degree sun beat my back.
Later I regained composure and belayed my buddy as he attempted the scariest climb of his life. As I watched my friend navigate a number of sketchy moves and yell at me for allowing him to lower a couple inches while taking a break, I knew he was pushing himself. I snapped out of my mood and got in the zone, yelling back encouragement and whatever advice I could. He pushed through a number of tough spots and finally clipped the anchors. Despite being injured I was able to share in his joy as he lowered with a smile.
In addition to these experiences, I did a number of climbs with strangers in Montana and elsewhere. And while these climbs were a blast (and I learned a lot) it wasn’t quite the same as getting to the top of a mountain with a friend.
A few years ago a palliative nurse shared the top regrets of the dying. It’s no surprise that one of the five was losing touch with friends. As you look to your goals, don’t forget to share them with the people who matter; otherwise, what’s the point.