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I have been a rock climber for 20 years. Climbing has fit me from the beginning in the same way that my favorite books fit. It has all of life inside it—joy, suffering, frustration, satisfaction, risk, reward—and is, like life, a struggle with both the subjective and the objective. The subjective struggle is to know your self, your limitations, and your abilities; to know when to go and when to back off. The objective struggle is to know the rock, the gear, the weather, and your partner. And then the distinction between objective and subjective breaks down and disappears. All of it becomes part of climbing. This completely focused self-consciousness together and simultaneous with the loss of self-consciousness is ultimately why I love climbing. It is a meditation, a mode of being.

I think this sense of climbing is one of the reasons, maybe the most important reason, that I have never enjoyed stories about climbing. I mostly don’t watch climbing movies or read climbing books or look at climbing magazines. Rarely do they touch my experience of climbing and usually they feel like trivializations of something intensely personal and private.

Having said this, I recently found a video that gets it pretty close to right. There is a shameless bit of advertising at the front; get past it. Listen and watch. Let me know if you see there what I’m trying to get at here.


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