Climbing has boiled down the reasons why I truly enjoy doing anything. In my past, I had committed fully to years of cycling and bike racing without really understanding the reasons why. During that career, I would stick it out through tough seasons; I would commit to the stress and ever increasing demands and expectations. At the time, I wasn’t fully aware why, but there was something that made all of the stress worth it. When I started climbing, it became clear why I stuck it out. I love adventure. I loved riding to some distant and unseen point. Yet there was still that ever increasing amount of stress from competing. Climbing has stripped away the bullshit of competing, demands, expectations and left pure adventure.
The times that I cannot climb, ski, run, or ride are the most anxiety producing in my life. Nothing is worse than planning a big trip, hike, or climb and having weather completely shut you down. Or when it is dumping snow, but you are stuck at work with the skis stuck in the car. Or getting sick the day you set off for adventure. So it came as no surprise that each winter, I would get genuinely mad when the temperatures would hover around freezing. For me, it was just too cold to climb. Based on my experience, trad climbing was a slow endeavor that left you freezing at a belay or rappel for far too long. The only other option was to try and climb fast. But fast trad climbing, that seemed downright scary, impossible even.
“Fast and Light” was reserved for the subjects the Reel Rock Film Tour. The idea of stripping gear down to the minimum and travelling fast over technical terrain was something very foreign to this first year trad climber. Every climb was thought out for days in advance. Going to try my first 5.8 on gear? I would read every description, comment, and topo on Mountain Project. I would read and reread the guide book until I was sure I had gleaned every possible bit of information available. I was the opposite of fast and light. I was methodical and geared up.
But this year, I was fed up with not rock climbing when it got too cold. So I convinced my friends Steve and Matt to follow me into the woods on a freezing cold day with a new plan. We headed up to our local trad crag – The Delaware Water Gap. The Gap is much less well known than its famous neighbor, the Gunks, but the Gap has very similar rock (being part of the same formation – the Silurian Shawangunk Conglomerate). I stopped short of saying rock quality, because it really does not see the traffic that is required to free the loose rock in this conglomerate. But if you are ready for a more adventurous day, the climbing can be spectacular. The idea was simple – keep moving. We eliminated belays by linking pitches as much as we could, kept the gear sparse, and only stopped when I hit the top or the rope came tight. We eliminated rappelling by topping out and would finish the hike up the ridgeline (another 1,000 vertical feet). Properly warmed up from the arduous hike, we would run down the hikers trail to do it again. That is exactly what we have done for the previous three weekends – miles of hiking and tons of climbing, rain or shine. I went from going mad and stir crazy, to having some of my best days in the mountains with my best friends.
Climbing has taught me, yet again, more about myself. The fact that I loved adventure may not have been a simple enough explanation. What I really love is the feeling when you look back at something you have done and can remember when that seemed really difficult, impossible even. I love adventure yes, but more simply I love to believe in impossible things.
Authored by Andy Munas