Words by Rashi Undugodage
Art by Suzy Jones
Rock climbing is defined as climbing up, down and across natural rock formations or artificial walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation without falling.
It’s an art, learning to manage physical fatigue and mental exhaustion. However,it is also a journey of self-discovery, struggle and even, victory.
I started rock climbing as a young adult, way older than most avid climbers but after multiple trips to a local gym with a friend I was hooked. I remember when we started climbing. Everyday, for weeks my neck and back would ache – begging me to take a break, to allow my body to rest, but my mind was addicted, and when I wasn’t climbing all I could think about was when I would be back on the wall.
I was addicted to the feeling of the rock holds, the ones that grazed and left marks on my calloused, hardened hands, the muscles in my back, shoulders and legs tense and tight.
I acknowledge that this ‘suffer-fest’ will not sound appealing to most people – but amongst the pain there were beautiful eye-opening moments that have sparked a new beginning for me.
When I look at a climbing wall, I don’t just see rocks but rather I see life.
There are good moments of nice large hand holds that make you feel like you can hang onto them forever, but as you move upwards, the holds become smaller and less smooth, you’re scraping the skin off your fingers just to hang on. As you move past them and think the worst is over, you get to the real crux of the problem. There are large sloping boulders that you can barely put your hand on before you slip off – and suddenly, you do slip, you fall and are back to the start of the problem.
You are instantly humbled, because unlike tennis or soccer, where you are trying to beat someone else, the rock doesn’t care. The rock doesn’t give a shit about you or how you’re feeling.
All you can do is try and be better than yourself.
It’s only you and the wall and I’ll tell you, the wall doesn’t care.
And isn’t that life? We’re raised to compete against each other in the classroom and the workplace, but actually the only person we can ever be better than ourselves.
Rock climbing has made me better, it’s my therapy and my passion. It allows me to work through so many feelings such as anxiety, restlessness, worry and stress.
I face them all when I climb, I embrace them as old friends and let them go and each time I move upwards I notice that I am also moving forward in life…stronger and braver than ever.