With climbing, I have gone through many transitions – from gym climber to climbing outdoors, from sport climber to trad climber, from girlfriend climber to climber girlfriend (trust me, there’s a difference), and for me probably most importantly from being someone who enjoys climbing to being a climber – invested fully and completely in this vibrant thing that is our climbing community. Not just somebody’s climbing partner, but having this sense of responsibility, stewardship, and pride of climbing and our way of life. The climbing community has not only been a part of each of my transitions, but has shaped who I am today. It’s this amazing thing, where you know that any place you travel, there’s a community just waiting to accept you, offer a place to crash, and climb or have a beer with you.
When I sat down to write about my recent trip to Indian Creek, I wasn’t sure what to focus on. Being my 12th trip out there, I could talk about redemption, leading routes I couldn’t even top-rope a few years ago. I could talk about trad climbing tips or I could go on about the routes climbed and number of burritos consumed. But really, of any trip in recent memory, this one stood out to me as being about partnerships and the lovely people in the climbing community. That’s what made this trip for me – the people. At the end of the day it’s not where, but who you’re with that really matters. There were quite a few examples on this trip that illustrate what the climbing community means to me, and how our love of the vertical brings us together:
Springtime, especially the last week of March, is a special time of year when my friends near and far converge on Indian Creek. On the first day, an old friend of mine, Luke, was out there working on a 30th birthday 30 climb challenge. He had a few groups of friends helping out with belaying, putting up TR’s, and offering moral support. I was lucky enough to be a part, albeit a small part, of that day. It was such a cool feeling, being there with everyone at the end of the day, cheering him on during that last climb. Everyone at the crag was offering encouragement, even climbers who didn’t know him. It was a perfect first day back in Indian Creek, and I was surrounded by people who were just as excited and simultaneously as relaxed and content as I was.
The next day, my good friend Logan rolled into camp. It’s funny, I actually haven’t known him that long at all, yet I absolutely consider him to be a true, good friend. I met him just last year in Indian Creek, and he ended up climbing and camping with us the rest of the week. We’ve shared stories, exchanged a few too many bad jokes, and spent a rest day in Moab eating burgers at Milt’s. I have other friends just like Logan – folks I’ve met at Indian Creek and only see out in the desert once a year. This is another reason why I love the climbing community – you can form such strong and meaningful ties with someone so quickly. It’s more than just the fact that you’re trusting your partner with your life, it’s that no matter what else we have going on in our lives, we all know what it means to live a life balanced around something we love and our common passion.
Crack climbing has become this strange part of me, where I find myself looking at cracks between buildings I could climb (and often do climb…), or seeing cracks in the sidewalk and think, “If only that were vertical…” I’m not sure I could be more passionate about it, and because of this I love introducing people to it – from teaching crack clinics at the gym to taking people on their first trip to Indian Creek. This year, quite randomly and last minute, two PG members I only barely knew, Evan and John, ended up joining me. On day one, we realized we had actually never climbed together, and we joked about what color belay cards we have. It didn’t matter that we’d never climbed together, because there is this mutual understanding and shared trust within the climbing community, and of course a love for adventure that made planning a weeklong trip with “strangers” completely natural.
I’ve now taken 10 climbers on their first trip to Indian Creek. It’s such is a special place to me and I can’t describe the gratitude that I myself feel when I take people there. Evan’s first Indian Creek lead was a route that was actually my first lead out there 7 years ago. It wasn’t the climbs I sent or got worked on that day, but rather getting to belay him on his lead (a huge rite of passage in Indian Creek) that made my day. I couldn’t have been more stoked. Certainly, camaraderie is not unique to the climbing community, but the level of togetherness I feel with other climbers, and the genuine joy I feel for my partners achievements, is magnitudes beyond that which I feel in any other community I claim membership to.
The climbing community is more than a series of individual partnerships. The wonderful thing about communities in general is that they are an arena within which powerful connections can be made, and thus provide stability, happiness, and a place for members to grow. The down-side of course is that they can lead to exclusion. Those transitions I mentioned earlier can create these silly and unnecessary distinctions (experienced vs. newbie, boulderer vs. sport vs. trad, etc).
Rather than seeing these as differences, we should embrace our commonality.
John would not call himself a crack climber, but that didn’t stop me from inviting him to go to the crack climbing mecca of the world. When a fellow climber is injured, it doesn’t matter if you know them or what kind of climber they are. When PGPDX employee Dan was hit by a car on his way home from the gym, the community rallied and organized the PDX Pulldown to fundraise.
Beyond Individual Connections
One night, my friend Matty held a bonfire in the campsite to get everyone together in order to bring awareness about impending access and conservation issues in Indian Creek. With all of our differences aside, we as a community have the opportunity to make a real impact on the world we live in. Around the campfire we had all convened from across the world, at varying experience and ability levels but we were all there together, to raise awareness. As we wrote letters for the cause there was an exceptional spirit that night around the campfire, one that I won’t soon forget.
Ways to get more connected:
Lindsey Pearson is an adventure-lover, and the easiest way to her heart is through crack climbing. She started climbing at a Planet Granite in the Bay Area over 15 years ago, is now living in Portland while going to medical school, and couldn’t be happier to be a part of the PG community again. Lindsey loves talking about cracks, racks, and all things climbing – feel free to ask her about trad climbing when you see her at the Portland Planet Granite or outside climbing! Chances are she’ll be wearing crazy spandex – she’s hard to miss!