Sport climbing is a growing activity in Spain, the second most mountainous country in Europe.
The large number of peaks, cuts, ravines and cliffs that we have in our geography is the main cause that this sport is getting more and more faithful followers. People who dedicate their free time and sometimes also their professional activity to challenge themselves on the wall and measure themselves on the rock.
Another way of doing this activity is to go to a climbing wall, a facility for climbing that simulates the natural environment and where you can go to get in shape. It is an affordable way of climbing for those who do not have time to go out into nature, and where the risk is much more controlled than on the rock.
For some, climbing can become a way of life, because they do it with such a level of motivation that they devote all their time and energy to it. Others not only dedicate their lives to it, but unfortunately lose them in it.
The few times that I have stood in front of a wall with a harness on my waist and a rope anchored to a safety pin, I have been able to realize how much learning there is in this activity that can be extrapolated to life.
Sport climbing, school of life
Like any intense situation that confronts us with ourselves: that pushes us to the limit, that requires us to go out of our comfort zone, that asks us to be alert and react with awake reflexes and make quick decisions, climbing can help us to know ourselves better and to develop new personal skills and abilities through self-observation and self-knowledge.
Sport climbing puts us in touch with the traps of the ego, with our mental dialogue, the habits and limitations of our daily life, in a condensed form. It also gives us the possibility to explore our resources and learn how to develop new skills, to free ourselves from what weighs us down and to overcome what limits us. Climbing challenges us to become better and more aware, to observe ourselves and realize who we really are.
Because, to paraphrase the prologue of a fantastic book on sport climbing, we could say that “Life presents an inherent risk and can cause damage and even death. It is your responsibility to consciously choose what you want to do with it and to do it according to your own motivation.
Only you can decide which risk is right for you. Your goal should be to learn about yourself, not to learn carelessness. Make conscious decisions that make sense to you. And don’t blindly follow my suggestions or anyone else’s.”
Any day of climbing
There is a great parallelism between sport climbing and life, and observing climbing can help us better understand the latter.
Our climber gets up early in the morning the day he decides to go climbing. He carries a challenge, a challenge in his head, and a motivation in his heart. He arrives at the foot of the route, and we, silent witnesses of his activity, can see that he is not alone, that even though he is the best climber, he is not alone.
He has a rope partner, who assures him and accompanies him in the ascent. His weakest point is the weakest point of his partner, so he has to know it well in order to compensate for it. In the hands of this partner, the climber puts his life.
As mute observers of his activity we realize that his equipment depends on the type of climbing and route he is going to do: artificial, free, alpine, classic or sport climbing. Your equipment is basic, as it reduces the risk or increases it, depending on whether it is more or less suitable. A helmet, climbing shoes, a magnesium holder, a belt loaded with material: friends, climbing shoes, carabiners, express belts…
The climber is secured with a harness at the waist, the climbing rope, and a rope called an anchor line. This second one becomes a magnificent metaphor that we can feel safe always, life anchors us and supports us.
The most ambitious project will be possible depending on the security and confidence with which our man climbs. Climbing, like life, is more a mental challenge than a physical one, and the mind is the only limitation.
Everything is reached step by step
We can stand in front of an imposing wall of 20, 200, or 900 meters… thinking it’s too high for us, that we’ll be afraid to get that high. We’ll learn that you climb step by step and that the first step prepares you for the second.
That you won’t take the second if you’re not prepared. That you will not reach the first 20 meters if your arms are not trained, if your resistance is not adequate, if you do not trust your feet. You will know that whoever reaches the top is because they have worked hard, because they can and deserve it. Because they have worked hard for it.
And when you get there, you’ll be done with your fears and left behind your limiting ideas. And you will discover that what was impossible before, can now be achieved.
In climbing, nothing is given away. And in climbing, as in life, self-sufficiency sometimes kills. You reach the summit accompanied by the hand of the other member of the rope. So, as in life, friendship is the greatest of all treasures.
Fear and falls
Both in climbing and in life, how we face fear and falls speaks volumes about us. It is important to deal with the former and learn from the latter.
A climber’s greatest fear is to fall, to plunge into the void, to have his safety fail, and to take a good flight. And to solve this, what they do is practice falls in controlled situations, having good insurances that allow them to take ease in such circumstances until they get to enjoy the fall.
In life, fears show us where our limits are, because they are located at the borders of our comfort zones, in the line of the unexplored. When a fear appears we know one of these two things: either we have already walked and done badly, or it is an unknown area in which we have no previous experience to guide us.
Both things will test our courage. We already know that the brave one is not the one who is not afraid, but the one who is and dares, in spite of it.
Those of us who don’t climb don’t like falls either, but our basic motivation in life, as in climbing, should be learning. And these are the best opportunities to learn, because only in the face of error can we see the faults and try new options that will help us get better answers. If we take the falls as the trials that help us to refine our technique, we will lose the fear and find its meaning in the day to day.
Developing Self-Esteem through Sport Climbing
Another important factor in the path of life is self-esteem. A climber cannot leave it in the hands of external factors that more often than not depend on chance, and neither can you. Therefore, self-esteem cannot be linked to achievement.
Nor can we obtain it by comparison with others, since we are all like the letters of an alphabet, and none is more important than the other. Self-esteem must always depend on internal, motivational and learning factors.
If the goal of our climbing, of our life, is learning, the most important result is not going to be reaching the top. The summit will come second.
This allows us to focus on the now, improve our technique, stay relaxed, observe our mind and its processes. This may allow us to reach the top with much less effort and feel happy, whatever the results.
And in the end, and in spite of everything, the summit will be within reach at any other time, because in the process we will have reached our vital objective: learning. And so, climbing will have become a learning experience for life.
Working with Auto Imaging
Close to the area of self-esteem we have the concept of self-image which, as the word itself suggests, is the image we have created of ourselves.
This image has been built on our life history, our successes and our failures. It will condition present and future achievements based on past actions. This will always be limiting because it anchors us to a moment that will never return.
The climber, who once chained a difficult and risky route, feels committed to that self-image of a daring climber. He loses attention to maintaining it, instead of being focused on the project he has in his hands at the moment.
The one who failed after several attempts, climbed slowly and was exhausted, is limited by that experience, since he may have created the image of being a climber who surrenders to difficulty.
It is important to work on one’s own image to build it on a daily basis, adapting it to our constant evolution and change. To base it on motivation, effort and learning, on personal and deep values, and not on ephemeral actions or on the opinion of others.