The Zen of Climbing

We touched a little bit on this on our post, which posed the question, “Why Climb?

On of the things we thought about was the mental aspect – the benefit of doing something that entirely focuses your mind on the task at hand.

Any of us who are familiar with yoga or meditation, will definitely see the meditative aspect to this.

Without diving too deep, this connects directly with a concept found in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras are some of the earliest writings on yoga. Yoga in this sense is closer to the original meaning of the word: yoking. That is, looking inwards.

The concept is discussed as a jewel, but often the analogy of a small pond of water is more descriptive. Essentially, you approach a still pond of water and look down into it.
If the water is still and calm, you will see a clear reflection of yourself. If someone throws a rock into the pod, there is chaos on the surface and the reflection becomes disturbed and misleading.

Likewise, if our consciousness is calm and still, we see our true selves more clearly. We understand our real nature and we begin to see the problems that we are creating for ourselves in the world. For that reason, we should embrace any activity that helps to calm the turmoil of our consciousness. We embrace an activity where our mind is working automatically, where it is focused on an immediate reality, and not dwelling in non-existent pasts and futures.

Many rock climbers describe this feeling. In long or particularly challenging climbs, they talk about finding out who you really are. As Edmund Hilary said, “it is not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves.”

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The Ethics of Climbing

Anyone who has seen Valley Uprising, will know about the classic rivalry between Royal Robbins and Warren Harding. Two of the great figures in American climbing in the 1950s.

Royal Robbins is painted as the stoic, thoughtful philosopher-climber while Warren Harding is shown as a wild, drunken man barging his way up big walls. Both made impressive ascents.

A classic point of rivalry is Royal Robbins taking offense to Warren Harding’s siege-tactic climbing style: placing large numbers of bolts and fixed ropes to get through tough sections of climbing. The story goes, that Royal Robbins would climb Harding’s routes, chopping off the heads of the bolts. He saw it as defacing the rock – it wasn’t pure climbing.

In the Czech Republic, near the border with Germany there a style of climbing that has developed to be extremely sensitive to the natural landscape. Very few bolts are placed. Climbers are not allowed to place any sort of metal protection. Instead, knotted ropes are wedged into the rock. Climbers climb barefoot and chalk is not allowed.

Flip back to America, and the guys pushing the barriers of Modern climbing: guys like Tommy Caldwell, Chris Sharma, Alex Honnold all climb sport routes (on bolts), with shoes and chalk. They are also doing things people previously thought was impossible.

Such as Caldwell’s ascent of the Dawn Wall:

Sharma’s iconic climbing of Biographie:

and any number of Alex Honnold’s amazing free-solo’s (on routes he’d practice with bolts first):

There is no question that as climbing gets more and more popular, climbers need to be conscious about the marks we are leaving on the natural landscape. At the same time, however, we want to be pushing harder and climbing further than ever before. No one wants to fight progress.

 

Each generation of climbers have broken ground in their own ways. Whatever your personal ethics on climbing are, those breaking ground in the future will almost certainly do it by streamlining and reduction of lasting impact.

The Bouldering Shirt

Some say the bouldering shirt doesn’t exist – that boulderers are actually shirtless, but these people fail to see the nuances of fashion. So, in this post we examine the pros and cons of the bouldering shirt.

A sport climber rocking the bouldering shirt
A sport climber rocking the bouldering shirt (image by Paul Savala)

 

Pros:
-Ultra lightweight
-Get to show off your guns
-Unlimited Range of motion
-Really get in touch with nature

Cons:
-Body hair getting pinched by rope/biners
-Have to show off your scrawny arms
-Freezing in winter
-Sunburn in summer
-Get too in “touch” with nature – cuts and scrapes everywhere
-Nothing to rip off in manly display of celebrating sending
-Can’t show off your amazing fashion sense

Clearly, we can see cons have it. So, here at Clombing we say go for a shirt (big surprise there, hey?). What do you think?

 

Feature image by Clark Weber.

Why Climb?

We know climbing is rad. That’s pretty much reason enough for most of us. Sometimes it seems, however, that there is no real “point” to climbing. If you ever feel this way, at your lowest times, here we ask the question – Why Climb?

Well, listen to the following inspirational words from some famous dudes about why we climb:

Firstly, did you know, JFK’s famous speech about going to the moon, is actually about climbing? The Moon was just a metaphor for sending the gnar…


Yep. Think about it.

Next up, word from probably the most famous rock climber around right now, Alex Honnold…

Equally inspiring is fellow North Face dude, Cedar Wright’s take on the benefits of suffering…

And finally, a rad video from the guys at Cotswold…

Why do you Climb?