Dirtbag Day 50

Today started beautifully. The smells and crisp taste of fall were in the air. It was by far the best climbing weather day of the year. I awoke to clear skies and the thermostat (read cell phone) said 51’ — though it felt more like mid-40s with the high humidity. Wonderful. The high for the day on Pigeon Mountain wasn’t more than 70. Even better.

I packed in several hours of climbing and after polishing off 8 routes in the front area of Lost Wall I sat atop the last climb and reveled in the splendor of a cool and sunny early afternoon. I literally thought to myself, and said aloud; The weather is so good, I just want to keep climbing forever. Then my stomach growled and I gazed down at my empty water jug. A second though; “I could push for more…”, then looked the sun and breathed in the cool air, “…but I’m happy with this day as it is.” I rapped off and hiked out to go find lunch.

I started climbing regularly (in a gym) 2 1/2 - 3 years ago. Thanksgiving of 2012 was my benchmark and reference point to the question, “how long have you been climbing?” Since then I’ve always kept a spreadsheet of every outdoor trip, personal record, ascent, and attempted route / problem. This wasn’t for any kind of showboating, but it is fun to look back and see where you were when and / or how far you’ve come or what has changed.

I added today’s routes to the list and looked at my year-to-date tally. 120 completed ascents so far this year. I don’t know how that compares to anyone else and I don’t care either; it is the perspective that figure brings for me. The next thing I looked at was my “career” ascent tally, 195. I clicked / scrolled to check my 2014 total – a time when I thought I really “went dirtbag” (ha!) – and found that I had 59 ascents in 2014.

If you’ve kept count that means that over 60% of my “career” ascents have come from this year alone which is only 70% over; and almost 92% of my career total has come from 2014 and what’s elapsed of 2015. Having looked also at trip logs, I know that there have been at least two single days in 2015 where I’ve sent more routes than in 2012 and 2013 combined! That said, though, it’s not like I started from ground zero in 2014 either so that really isn’t a fitting “start date.”

I think the point I’m trying to make is that the question of how long have you been climbing is about as useless, routine, and trite as how hard do you climb. We all know that grades are subjective (and star / quality rating as well). It’s just as complicated a matter to consider “how many years you’ve been climbing” when you factor in quantity and quality of climbing as well as variance in style and willingness to go outside that box.

I met a woman at Sunset Park last week who was not a climber, yet provided me with a useful metaphor. She was a scuba diver. She said that she had “been doing it for years.” Of her own accord she added that, "...but I haven't spent very many hours underwater." How long have you been climbing? Perspective matters. For the people that don’t want to hear or won’t value yours, just make something up. For the others, start a fire, crack a beer, and let the stories begin.