Twenty years ago, sometime in mid-August, I did my first multipitch climb: the Regular Route on Chapel Pond Slab, a 700-foot excursion up smeary anorthosite. My friend Peter and I were working at a summer camp in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, and the climbing instructor had promised to take us up this route if we stuck around after camp had ended for the summer.
I had been climbing a couple times each summer for the past two or three, top roping on some of the local Adirondack crags, and was ready to jump into the deep end. Looking back, it was probably more like a cannonball, as the ripples from that day are still shaping my life and how I interact with the world. And I can honestly point to that experience, that climb, as what pushed me forward into the adventure I’ve been having for the last twenty years.
The early days were an interesting combination of having a pretty good sense of how not to die, mixed with the sometimes reckless curiosity that comes with learning something new and being sixteen that, looking back on, I’m thankful we all came through unscathed.
Climbing has never come very naturally to me, I’ve always had to work hard for my achievements, but that’s only made me appreciate them all the more. I’ve had injuries and setbacks, frustrations that at times made me think I would give the whole thing up. But even in those darker moments, I couldn’t stay away for long. And I’ve learned so much about perseverance and hard work along the way, characteristics that have served me well in other areas of life.
Twenty years later, I’m as stoked as I’ve ever been on climbing. I’m a far better climber now than I was in my twenties, smarter about how I go about it, more technically dialed, and certainly stronger than I was then.
Even after this recent injury I’ve been dealing with, when I got back out to the cliff this past weekend, and felt the familiar flow up long, limestone climbs, there was no question in my mind, this is where I want to be.
People and relationships will always be the most important things to me, but climbing is the source of so much joy and adventure in my life, I’m beyond excited for what the next twenty years will bring.