Climb like a Samurai
one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of climbing is the mental. a lot of climbers will spend countless clif bars worth of energy focusing on getting bigger forearms, fancier footwork and greater endurance but forego any real effort to improve mental awareness. all of these elements are certainly important for a climber to excel, but they are all as useless as a jug on another route if your mental state keeps you from tapping them. strength disappears when fear interferes. technique is forgotten. endurance is sapped. your fingers wilt. your tips sweat. your brain shuts down. you're gonna fall.
been there? if you haven't, i'd be tempted to say you're not climbing hard enough. or you're dean potter.
for anyone whose dealt with the inherent fears and frustrations of climbing, this thread's for you. for anyone who feels they've mastered their fears, this thread's for you.
the fears that a lot of climbers feel are natural. evolutionarily speaking, we've been mentally programmed to be scared of heights, and particularly scared of falling off them. so what's a climber to do?
personally, i've spent a lot of time anazlying my climbing. not just my technique, but my fears, my motivations and my frustrations. after almost a decade of scaling rocks, i had come to a point where i didn't get it anymore. i could climb a certain grade, but couldn't push myself harder. my head got in the way of my climbing and i questioned what, if anything, i still got out of it. an injury forced me off the rock and gave me ample time to seriously consider giving up climbing. it was during this time that i picked up arno ilgner's the rock warrior's way. i've since read it no less than five times. it has changed the way i climb, the way i think about climbing and the way i approach life in general.
ilgner's approach to the entire process is well thought out, well tested and easy to understand. it may not be so easy to apply, but after reading the book, you realize that the difficulty in applying it is part of the appeal. such is climbing. in finding the thing that motivates us to climb, shedding all the elements of ego that gets tied up into our expectations and performance, we can come to climb for the only reason that matters: because you love to climb. the reasons for that love may stem from various sources; a love of beautiful natural places; a love of the social bonds in the climbing community; or a love of the challenges of pushing your physical and mental limit. the last is basically a love of learning. as arno says, there are three stages to life: birth, growth and death. we're already born and we're not dead yet, so we might as well focus on growth. physically, we've probably grown as much as we're going to. so there's mental growth. how do you grow mentally? by learning. how do we learn? by focusing on problem solving. what better way to problem solve than to climb. sure crosswords are fun, but where's the sweat. to really learn, we need to step outside our comfort zones. we have to risk. let's start there. now who's willing to risk?
the way i see it, there are two worlds: the world where nothing is sacred except money, and the other world, where everything is sacred.