8 Things I’ve Learned from Rock Climbing

8 Things I’ve learned from Rock Climbing

Ain’t it funny how the things that scare you the most sometimes end up being the things that rock you to your core in the best of ways- and yes, there was an opportunity for a climbing pun, and I took it. Moving right along.

I remember the first time I tried to climb the ETSU Indoor rock wall. With a crippling fear of heights I decided to try my hand on the easiest route on the rock wall- Level One. With the strongest guy I knew at the time being my “catch” aka: the one holding the rope, I felt pretty safe- until I got halfway up. I momentarily decided to look down from my climb, noticing my catcher looking freakishly small from my new perspective. In that same moment I look over and see that one of my former flames happens to be standing below watching me rather intently. My fear of heights paired with his scrutiny led to one thing- Panic. Fear became me and big crocodile tears started flowing down my silly cheeks. “Let me down!” is all I could muster to scream at the person catching me. After some encouragement from him that didn’t really work at all, he finally resorted to these choice words, “I’ll only let you down if you tell me you love me and call me baby!” In retrospect, I guess that was his idea of something that I wasn’t willing to say, but he obviously didn’t know the extent of my fear and embarrassment.  I was mildly defiant at first, but as you can guess, I pretty quickly ended up desperately choking out the words “Baby, I love you.” The climb then ended anticlimactically with me being lowered in shame to the ground. There was no intense moment of turn around, I didn’t turn into a superhero, and I definitely didn’t plan on ever coming back.

Fast forward to two years later- Second semester of my senior year in college. There I was still at ETSU, still trying to decide what the hell I wanted to do with my life (still trying to decide), and I had one year left to figure out…like, everything.  After taking 21 credit hours’ worth of finals and seeing myself through a failed romance, I needed a new purpose. I needed inspiration. I then made the strange and random decision to come back to the rock wall.

There’s something strange about trying rock climbing. There’s this saying I hear among climbers that “people get bitten by the climbing bug,” and suddenly they can’t stop climbing. Well my name is Rachel Goodman, and I am addicted to climbing. *crowd then murmurs*“Hi Rachel.”

Without further semi-inspirational self-indulgent back story, I give you a list of eight things that I have learned from the rock wall- and how ironically yet appropriately, getting to the top of a rock wall has helped me learn lessons about how to look at life.

8. Everyone has different advantages and disadvantages. When climbing you see that taller people sometimes have an easier time reaching holds, but shorter climbers may have an easier time with balance. In life, we all personally have inherent things about us or our situations that make things easier and harder for us. Each of us has them, and that’s something to remind ourselves of whenever we feel the compulsion to judge/compare ourselves to others.

7. Just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is. Watching someone climb to the top of the rock wall, at least for me personally, is disheartening. Now hear me out, I feel this way because for some reason, at least to me, indoor rock climbing looks easy- and the show off in me wants everyone to see how hard it is. The truth is, it’s difficult, and some people just make it look easy because they do it with control. So when you see someone who seems to have “it all figured out,” well, chances are they went through a lot to get there- and they are probably still struggling to get to an even higher place.

6. If something you want seems out of reach, go for it anyway. I learned this while climbing routes in which holds (the things on the rock wall you grab to climb) seemed literally impossible to reach. I would look up to see only one hold available, and from my view it seems to be at least 5 feet above my reach. At first I was afraid of falling as a result of not reaching the hold, but I realized that if I didn’t go for it, there was no way to advance. So when you have something that you want, go for it with everything in your power. You may get exactly what you are reaching for.

5. You are stronger than you think. As a matter of a fact, you are much stronger than you think. When you climb that rock wall enough times in a row, your arms begin to feel like jello and your hands get so tired that squeezing an egg with all your might probably wouldn’t break it. I remember one time I was on the wall and I simply could not get to the top of this particular route. I kept reaching for this one hold that seemed so far away, and frustratingly, my hand kept slipping off when I would finally get a grasp of it. But, I was determined. I tried over 10 times to reach this hold, my arms were practically dead weight, and I could feel frustration, anger and exhaustion seeping in all at once.  But for some reason I didn’t give up, and you know what- I did it. I kept trying and I kept pushing and I finally got to the top of that route- in that same day. After all my strength was depleted, I told myself that I was not getting off of that wall until I got to the top, and that’s exactly what this girl did. Boo Ya.

4.  Just a little encouragement literally changes outcomes. One day I decided it would be fun to try a route that was way out of my league, just because someone encouraged me to do so. So, for shits and giggles I decided to try it. Throughout my entire time trying (and failing), my encourager was relentlessly making me try again. After each fall, he insisted that I get back up. Well, after about 10 minutes of trying, I was literally almost half way up the wall and only one difficult move away from getting past the hardest part of the route. I owe it all to his simple encouragement.

3. Anger makes you weaker. I had no idea how much it depleted my body until I decided to start getting angry while dangling from the rock wall. When I’m on a difficult climb and my frustration turns into foul language and random thrashing in midair, I know that I’m not going to get to the top of the wall that day. I’ve learned, that getting mad, helps absolutely nothing and in fact, it causes the opposite of what you want to occur- in climbing, that’s the inability to get to the top of the wall. In life, it hinders productivity in the same way.

2. Listen to the people watching you from a different perspective. Sometimes your catcher or observers from the ground will throw you some advice while you struggle on the wall. Listen to it. Just because you listen to it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Hear the advice, imagine what it would do if used, and move forward with a plan- whether or not it includes their suggestions. Just remember, sometimes they can see things that you can’t.

1. It’s never too late to try something new. The things that I adore most are the things that I didn’t even THINK to try. I think that sometimes we all get so into our routines that we think we are happy/stimulated when really we are in autopilot, or zombie status. Who wants to spend their lives in the drone of consistency? I don’t. My advice to those who agree with me is to go out and Try the weirdest thing imaginable. Wake yourself from zone of consistency and comfort that we all fall into. Think of something, anything. And if you don’t have any ideas, you can use mine, and come to the wall.

Summer ETSU Rock Wall Hours are Monday through Friday 4 until 7 Outdoors- Indoor wall is open only when it rains.Image


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