How the Adventure Began.
A few of my close friends suggested we should go for a hike. At the time the adventurer in me had agreed. The truck-driving smoker in me on the other hand was not so excited about the idea, especially at 6am. After a long sleepy drive we made our way to the base of our chosen hike, Grassi Lakes. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about climbing and I definitely did not know what I was going to see at the top of the hike.
I remember the hike being relatively difficult at the time. At this stage of my life I was not very active outside of my job, delivering furniture across western Canada. I spent weekends at home doing as little as possible without sticking to the bed, and for me that was perfect. The fact that my friend, Misha, successfully got me out of bed before 11am was nothing short of a miracle.
Love at First Sight.
When we arrived by the lake near the top of the hike the sights were incredible; so incredible in fact that we almost did not notice the climbers working their way up the walls on either side of the trail just ahead of where we were standing. After taking a few pictures beside the lake we continued on our merry way up the trail, past the lake and directly into view of the twenty to thirty odd climbers all over the rock on our two sides. I recall watching in absolute amazement, the men and women working their way up the walls and thinking only one thing: COOL! I want to do that!
After bouldering around the rocks a short distance away from all the real climbers, I decided to start asking one of them some questions. Looking back on it now, I was likely that frustrating ‘tourist’ asking those same silly questions all climbers love: “Do you have to take a class or something?” “Is the gear cheap?” “Are you going all the way up there?” “Isn’t that dangerous?” “Can I try?” The answer to the last question was a stern and solid “Absolutely not. This takes a lot of experience and the gear is really expensive and you don’t know how to belay.” Belaying is managing the slack in the rope as well as catching the climber should they fall, but I had no idea at the time.
“How to what?”, I thought playing dumb. I felt like I was being annoying enough without prodding further.
Walking away from that conversation, I was convinced this was something I would never get the chance to do. It would be too expensive and above all, physically demanding. After all I was a pack-a-day smoker and there was no chance I would have the stamina to climb. I mean I barely got up this simple hike, how could I possibly pull this climbing stuff off?
But as it turns out, life had different ideas.
The not so Distant Future.
About two years later, I started up the same wall that I was marveling at not that long ago. My friend Scott was on the belay and this time, I knew what that word meant. This was my first time outside after proving myself on the artificial walls at the Calgary Climbing Center, and Scott had decided that I was ready to try out some real rock. There was something pretty cool about watching it all come full circle. In the time between now and the first time I had seen this wall I had quit smoking, picked up indoor climbing, learned how to belay and became a new and improved adventurous soul.
Today, I have the pleasure of working at the gym that I learned to climb in. I climb outside every weekend working on projects (difficult climbs that take many attempts to finish over several days) at different areas around the valley. Four years after standing dumbfounded at bottom of the wall, I still struggle to believe sometimes that I got the chance to do this incredible thing. Climbing has truly become my life and I love every second of it.
No matter what you are told, if there is something you feel drawn to outdoors, the only obstacle is you. My humble advice is do not make my mistake and give up before you start. If you do the research and speak to people that are involved in the activity, either online or in your local community, they can help you find a way to get started. There is always a place to get the advice you need to make your dreams of adventure come true. Have faith in your ability and work slowly towards your goals, you might surprise yourself.