At precisely quarter to four on Tuesday afternoons, many students and teachers pack up for the day and walk off to their designated co-curricular activities. Sometimes, we hear a chorus of groans go up in the air as bored groups of students drag their feet to their intended destinations. Other times, we hear the pitter-pattering echo of a late student rushing from the dorm. For me, this is the best time of the week. “Why?” you ask.
Because for me, Tuesday afternoons mean rock climbing.
Those of us who have signed up for rock climbing troop into the bus and head off to the local climbing gym, ClimbAt with Mr. Alex Funnel—who does climbing as a hobby—and Mr. Jonathan Fouser, who has been climbing for more than two decades and has also done various mountaineering ascents in Alaska, the Himalayas and the Alps. As we walk into the gym, we are suddenly confronted with the sight of fifteen-meter high walls bearing numerous colorful holds that highlight specific climbing routes of varying difficulties. On the right hand side, a wall looms imposingly with its tiered overhangs that jut out and over us, and on the left we see low practice walls used for bouldering, a form of climbing that is done without ropes with crash pads underneath to protect against falls.
At the start of every rock-climbing season, we introduce the students to the basics of climbing safety such as tying into the climbing rope and proper belay technique that allow the climber to scale the wall safely. The next few sessions are then used to improve climbing and belay technique. I sometimes use my spare time during these moments to work on a route that I am finding particularly vexing, other times, I like to observe others climbing.
Non-climbers have a tendency to assume that climbing is a realm inhabited by bearded people with muscular arms and an inclination to perform death defying acts of daredevilry and stupidity. However, they could have not been further away from the truth in saying that, as climbing is a sport that is has participants from all lifestyles and different geographical locations. Despite this, as a climber, I cannot escape from the stares of surprise and the questions and comments that pop up whenever I mention my passion about climbing. People often make comments about the danger of the sport and then follow this by questioning the sanity of people who attempt to climb rock and ice.
So, why do we climb?
By climbing outdoors, a profound connection to nature is made in presence of the outdoors, with all its natural glory and when one challenges themselves in strength and endurance. Furthermore, the relationships in climbing involve a high degree of trust and companionship that rise in the process of challenge and risk. As humans, we are born to climb in every way possible. We climb to achieve dreams, we climb to reach goals, and we climb as a means of reaching success. Simply, we climb because without goals, without mountains—physical or mental—we cannot survive, we would not be able to aspire for greater and greater things.
by Faiza Al Bahrani ’16