Climbing saved me from a downward spiral which, when I look back on it, worries me how it could have ended. I had just gone through a very messy break up with a girlfriend of seven years. My heart was broken, I was angry all the time and I was drinking far too much and far too often.
I was also suddenly quite lonely living in London. I knew I had to get away for a bit, so I phoned a good friend who had recently moved to Bristol and asked if I could come down and see him for the weekend. He didn’t have any plans apart from climbing, which he said I was welcome to come to. What did I have to lose?
I headed down and got my first taste of climbing in the Wye valley. I know that these days it is probably rare to climb outdoors before you ever climb indoors, but that is how it happened for me. We top roped a few routes at Ban-y-gor and then did a four pitch severe at Wintour’s leap.
I still remember the fear I felt on the first belay ledge at Wintour’s leap. I asked my friend if there was any way we could get down, as I didn’t know if I had the nerve to go on. We seemed so high already. He pushed me to keep going and I am forever grateful for this because we finally topped out as the sun was setting over the Wye valley. It was magical, and the sense of achievement I got from pushing through the fear was immense.
I remember a moment in the car on the way home, feeling battered and bruised and physically exhausted, but emotionally rested and completely at peace. It then dawned on me that I hadn’t thought about my ex-girlfriend once while we had been out climbing. I bought rock boots, a harness and a chalk bag the next day and haven’t looked back since. I joined up with the local indoor wall and was climbing all the time.
I also stopped the excessive drinking straight away. Suddenly, getting to the top of a line of fluorescent lumps of resin bolted to some plywood was infinitely more important than going out drinking. I was also no longer lonely; I instantly clicked with people at the local wall over our shared passion.
Now, seven years later, I still get that same sense of being free every time I climb. Whether pulling as hard as possible on plastic or climbing outdoors immersed in amazing areas of natural beauty, all of life’s worries and problems melt away to insignificance.
From speaking to other climbing friends this seems to be a shared phenomenon. However, it’s not just the personal challenge that makes climbing so extraordinary, it’s the whole community. There is something special about climbing in that it can be both competitive and friendly at the same time.
Climbers truly want others to succeed, obtain their goals and climb their projects. Whether climbing at an elite level or just starting out, in my experience, climbers are always quick to share advice, tips and beta. HoldBreaker have it absolutely correct: in climbing, everyone’s struggle is the same, irrespective of level.
So, back to the original question. Why do I love climbing? There are too many reasons for me to mention in this blog, but here are three which I think are important. It has a cathartic nature, it takes you to incredible locations and it allows you to meet amazing people who are as passionate as you are about scaling rocks large and small. Climbing is so much more than a sport or a hobby.
A short climbing story by Rob Patterson, "Why I love climbing"
Name: Robert Patterson