One thing I discovered when I moved to Austin was that it seems like everyone is into climbing. Climbing in the gym, climbing at the Greenbelt, climbing at E-rock. It took me an embarassingly long time to figure out that E-rock was Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a really awesome state park with a massive granite dome much like Stone Mountain in Atlanta. I just thought E-rock was some sort of climber lingo that I was not cool enough to comprehend.
In Austin, due to the geography around us, the best options we have for outdoor activities are climbing, cross country mountain biking, and long distance paddling. None of these were my activity of choice, but my activity of choice requires mountains. It’s a long way to mountains from here. So I’ve been trying some other options.
Mountain biking was my first second love. I love the traveling aspect of it. You can go from one point to another, and pretty quickly. You can see a lot and feel the wind pass by as you fly down the trail. I’m still working on my mountain biking. There are some difficulties in getting into the sport. A nice bike is expensive, and without nice bike the ride can be a bit jarring and uncomfortable. There’s lots of accessories that are necessary too. At the very least a good helmet, but it is a never ending process of upgrading your bike’s components and performing maintenance. The maintenance part I actually like a lot though. I recently read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I learned a lot from that book, both about Zen and maintenance. It’s a tough but worthwhile read.
Speaking of Zen, yoga has been a new introduction to my life. It is so satisfying. After an hour of yoga I feel a body high. Everything feels stretched and strong, yet peaceful and ready. My mind feels calm, my lungs feel full. There’s just a slight tingle. The experience does not leave you wanting more. It is perfect.
Yoga is what brought me around to climbing. I was treating climbing like mountain biking or backpacking, a physical activity to explore the world around me. But climbing is much more like yoga, a mental activity at least as much as a physical one. Even the movements are similar. Use your core, move slow and smooth, breathe. Climbing routes in the gym are called “problems”. It’s about creativity and problem solving. Working on the same route for a day or a week, changing your moves and positions, moving a bit smoother and slower, finally reaching the top. It provides that same stretched, strong, peaceful, ready, calm and full feeling.
So after two and a half years of not understanding what all this fuss about climbing was, I get it now. At least I get why I love it now. Maybe other people love different aspects of it, but I figured out what works for me, motivates me, makes me want to improve. And most importantly, what makes me happy.