I have been rock climbing for probably around three years. I don't know the date exactly, although I should. Women tend to remember all the details about when they fell in love, don't they? The thing I remember most about my first climb was thinking to myself, "Oh, there I am!" Something about climbing just made me feel more complete, more like me. Like a puzzle piece of my life had been missing, but I didn't know it until it was fitted into place.
But I need to point out that all three(ish) of those years have been indoors. A guy I know, who used to climb, liked to point out that what I was doing wasn't real climbing. I couldn't understand how he could say that. I could conquer practically any route (under 5.11) set in front of me! My arms actually had muscles that rose instead of fell! Ah, how little I knew of real rock climbing. As he so eloquently described "real" climbing: "It's climbing plus f-n nature."
He was right.
I started outdoor rock climbing on February 25th. I have been six or seven times in the three weeks since then. Granite, limestone, sandstone. Top roping, lead climbing, bouldering (well, if you include the bouldering, then I've been outside a dozen or more times, but bouldering is definitely not the same as climbing).
And I don't think I'll ever enjoy the gym again.
That first time, on February 25th, a group of 20+ of us drove a couple hours to just outside the city of Boulder to climb. I drove up with a guy named Tim who quickly became my most frequent climbing partner. In fact, other than the bouldering, every time I've gone it's been with him. He is the nicest, most patient, encouraging guy (he's always telling everyone how well I "read the rock" for only have been doing this for three weeks. Slight ego boost thankyouverymuch).
We climbed yesterday after work in the Garden (all hail daylight savings!) and I did my first multi-pitch climb (sort of. It was just longer than one, and only one rap down). On our last route we ran into a guy named Bruce and invited him to grab a bite to eat with us afterward. Over pina coladas we talked climbing - both routes and history (Bruce was surprised how much I knew about climbing history. A guy who's been climbing for longer than I've been alive, he was present in Yosemite when the "pot plane" went down), travels (all three of us have been to the pyramids in Giza. Bruce and I ignored the "no climbing" signs),
(Yes, I know my pants are so stylish. I have an excuse. It was 1996.)
and how much our love for climbing affects everything else we do (I don't do much other than work, climb, and hang with my kids anymore). I commented that other than my kids, climbing is really the only thing that matters to me right now. That any future significant other in my life will have to love climbing. I wouldn't even want to introduce someone to it. It would have to already be part of who they are. Because I wouldn't want someone a few months or a year down the road to say, "Well, maybe this isn't really for me." Ugh. And Bruce looks at me with a combination of surprise, understanding, and wistfulness and says, "Where were you 25 years ago?"
It's a wonderful life, this outdoor life. I'll never look back.
Lesson Learned: It's all uphill from here. Or, more appropriately, up rock.