Rock climbing takes serious endurance, but to start you just need to face the wall.
My sister and I have had climber’s blood in us since we were born. Our father climbed all the way up the summit of Boundary Peak in Nevada (that’s 13,143 ft.) with two blow up bananas to get a photograph for me, his Hannah Banana, when I was one. And while I inherited my father’s photography skills, my sister took to the mountains with his love of a challenging climb. Last week we headed over to Midwest Mountaineering’s bouldering cave so Josie could climb, and I could sit safely on the ground with my camera.
H: Besides our dad, what got you interested in climbing?
J: The real reason I got started again (I used to climb often as a kid) is people were talking about it across the hall from me freshman year. Turns out Hamline had a club, and since I already knew I loved it, I figured it would be a good way to make friends, stay healthy, and do something with my time.
H: How do you work through a difficult route?
J: There are two basic types of climbing when climbing in a gym, bouldering and top-roping. The pictures here show bouldering, but what I usually do is top-rope. Top-roping is taller walls, which you can either be belayed or be hooked in to the auto-belay. When I start a route I don’t study it, I just go up to the wall and start to climb. If I can’t make it up the first time I’ll just keep trying until I make it up. The first difficult route (a 5.10c to those climbers out there reading this) took me 20 times to get up to the top and then probably another 20 times to have it down to a memorized route. Sometimes your hands give out and you’re not able to finish the route, you just have to give it a rest and get back up there the next time.
H: What are some of the differences in climbing indoors vs outdoors?
J: The number one thing for outside is having partners you trust and can rely on, because in a climbing gym there is staff around to help. When you’re outside you have to have all your gear prepared ahead of the climb and don’t forget a first aid kit! Indoors, most of the gear is attached to the wall, or available on request. When climbing outside, you have to be aware of all of your surroundings; weather and safety are the biggest things. Once you are climbing, you are just climbing. It’s about the atmosphere, the place and the people you want to be a part of. We all stretch before and after, we all drink water and make sure we aren’t climbing on empty stomachs, but whether you are indoors or outdoors you just need to do what you love, and keep trying until you reach the top.
H: What does having an ‘active lifestyle’ mean to you?
J: It means I spend my whole week looking forward to the next climb. That I can’t spend all day watching Netflix no matter how badly I want to see what happens on the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It means that once a day you have to use your body for something other than breathing, eating, and putting clothes over your head. Climbing is hard on your body. If you aren’t stretching and using those muscles, and if you skip out for a month or two… well good luck getting back into shape because you won’t be where you left off.
H: When you look back at where you started, what are you most proud of accomplishing?
J: I have had a lot of obstacles that have taken time away from climbing this past year. And despite having to regain the strength time and time again, or having to take weeks off for my health, I never let any of it stop me. I’m most proud of the fact that I keep trying. When I have to stop or take it slow or spend more time stretching, it’s all worth it just to get back to the wall. It’s a test of strength that you can see how far you have come by just looking down below when you’re at the top.
H: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start climbing?
J: Never let the idea of something being difficult stop you from doing it. Don’t be afraid of trying something new just because you think you won’t succeed. I started climbing with a group of advanced climbers when I could barely climb a ladder. Now only two years later I work with students in my same shoes, just getting to the wall for the first time. Yes it can be disappointing when you see the routes some people can do, but they started where you are starting: both feet on the ground with your head looking up. You can do it. Just don’t give up.
I threw in the banana photo just for a good chuckle.
Love, Peace and Bananas! ~ Hannah Lee, Soul Flower Photographer & Production Artist
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