How Climbing Changed My Life for the Better
Life is can be painful, messed up, beautiful, and amazing all at once. Things go wrong at the worst possible times, and sometimes it is hard to see the silver lining in every situation. We all have our struggles and some of the battles we are fighting are harder than others. Sometimes we get lost in the pain, and some of us are lost in it forever. Two years ago, I was lost and did not know where I was headed.
In the past two years, I have been judged by many who have no idea who I am, social media is an outlet for many to show their experiences. Sure, some people like to pose in their underwear and show off their bodies, but for me, it has become an outlet to share my experience.
My name is Laura, and I have had a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety
I started hiking after a bad break-up when I thought I lost everything that made me. Turns out, the relationship was just holding me back. The hiking was a great outlet to be alone with my thoughts, realized that I was worth more than I would accept, and I got to see some pretty incredible things. I had mountaineering goals, but after being shut down on Mount Adams, I kind of gave up on that idea for a while and focused on getting strong.
Last July, I got a comment on one of my photos on Instagram from an attractive mountain guide asking if we could share a beer on a summit this summer. I laughed to myself and thought it was a joke. Turns out, it was not a joke, and the two of us hit it off. So, there I was, just a girl with a crush on a mountain guide. My birthday was fast approaching, and he wanted to plan something fun. The planning started, SEWS in Washington Pass and Mount Shuksan. To say I was a bit intimidated was an understatement.
So the story goes, all was a success. I had dabbled in rock climbing in my early twenties for about a month but had no real experience. So, my first climbing experiences were in the alpine. I found myself addicted, wanting more alpine rock in my life. We attempted to do the West Ridge of Stuart in September, but after hiking in, we decided that weather was less than desirable. In October, I headed to Joshua Tree and Red Rock Canyon. To answer the question, I was able to climb things in Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree really impacted me, I headed home with bloody fingertips, a broken heart, and the desire to climb.
I tried to climb with whoever I could, I was still very uncomfortable and did not quite know what I was doing yet. When I was dating the mountain guide, he knew my comfort level and knew what I was capable of. I felt out of place at the climbing gym when I would meet up with people, leaving me insecure. But to others, they thought I was not climbing for the right reasons.
My experiences with others were not always the most positive, even now many people question why I am climbing. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Once you climb with someone, they assume to know everything about you. The climbing community is one of the most accepting/unaccepting groups of people I have ever met. Trying to find a strong female mentor has been a nightmare. These days, I prefer to climb with men, which is very sad. We are the minority in the climbing community, and yet, new female climbers are not welcomed warmly. In the past few weeks, I have heard that I am only climbing to “be rad,” that I need to slow down, and that I have no idea what I am doing out there.
Yes, this month marks my 6th month of climbing outside. My first experiences with climbing were following gear in the alpine, my first leads were trad, and I have been trying to spend every free moment climbing. I am constantly asking, “Why?” Understanding the safety aspect and why things are done a certain is a huge focus. I may not be the best climber, but I want to be safe. I am not sure why someone who is psyched to climb is someone who needs to “slow down” and is just worried about being “rad”?
I took my first ever fall on lead a few weeks ago, on Twin Cracks (5.7) in Leavenworth.
For months, I had been working on becoming a strong climber. I spent every weekend possible climbing and learning as much as possible. It was my time at Smith Rock that was pivotal. I met some incredible people, and the people that stand out the most are some pretty amazing guys who just successfully got some first ascents on some Alaska big walls outside of Haines. These guys warmed up on 5.11ds, and yet, they had no problem taking some time out of their day to work with me. They never bragged they never made me feel lesser, and they supported me. They are the most humble people I have met in the climbing community. They taught me it is okay to try hard, fall and be scared. Although all of our time together was brief, they truly impacted me and have pushed me to pursue my dreams.
With the experience, I decided to step it up. I felt confident with leading Twin Cracks, but as soon as I started I couldn’t get a strong placement, did not commit to the move and feel about 15-20 feet, spraining my ankle. Since then, I have gotten a lot of flack from people who barely know me. Yes, I have followed trad gear since I started, I have done mock leads, and had my placement checked many times. I did everything correctly, I am not sure why it is so easy for people to point their fingers and judge. Even the most experienced climbers have gear pop and have accidents. Why do you think rappelling is the most common killer of climbers? Accidents happen.
My stoke for climbing will be judged forever. My intentions are something that people will continue to judge, especially on social media. I was in a dark place for many years, but it is climbing that really saved my life. I share my experiences on social media to maybe just help one person. Someone who may think there is no hope left, but I hope they realize that there is hope. I hated myself for many years. How can someone love you if you do not love yourself? I had lost my way and had no idea who I was. And somewhere along the line, I found rock climbing, and it helped me find and love myself.
I love the mental and physical challenge. Climbing is my release, my passion. It took a long time to work on the relationship I have with myself and finding what truly made me feel alive. And yeah, I have a lot of big mountain dreams. So what? We should all have dreams that we make a reality, and support others who have dreams. Not bring them down and talk behind their backs. Especially, the ladies, it is not a competition, the community of lady climbers is so small, let’s uplift and encourage each other.
We all started somewhere, we were all “newbs” once.
Hi, my name is Laura. I love rock climbing. I had my first accident a few weeks ago. I learned for it and will be stronger because of it. Many people in my life told me I was not worth anything, and people still question and put me down. They do not know me, and I do not need them to validate my existence. My social media is the outlet in which I try to share my journey, but it is just a brief look into my life. I try to make it the best reputation of who I am, and I will never apologize for who I am. I plan on making a lot of my dreams a reality, and I support everyone who has a dream that they are trying to make a reality. And hey, haters are always going to hate.