Lessons in Lead Climbing (Part 4): I am Courageous

I’m fifteen feet off the deck and my first bolt glistens five feet above my head. I look down and notice a giant boulder in my fall zone. As I smear and wedge myself up the dihedral I continue to reassure myself that 1) a broken ankle wouldn’t hurt that bad, and 2) I got this, I flippin got this!

After I clip the first bolt and take my time chalking up, my husband sends up some calm words of reassurance. I glance up the bolt line and see the sun glinting off shiny metal another twenty vertical feet. First come the curse words, and the highly anxious thoughts like, why even clip the first bolt if I know I’ll deck from the second?, and other fun things like that. But then come the reassurances, the urges to be brave, the emphasis on delicate footwork and precise movements.

Before I know it I’m at the second bolt with confidence building. I notice the third bolt about the same distance as the two prior and push on. The success of the first two bolts carries over to the third, then the fourth, until I’m on the final stretch to the anchors. Each move I make I expect to see the chains, and each move I’m disappointed. A few more moves and the bolt below me disappears. I move tepidly up the face. The moves aren’t hard, but I can’t distract my brain from the giant whip I’ll take if my foot pops or my hand slips.

Finally, about fifty feet from the last bolt, the chains come into view. I anxiously move towards them, clip in, and breathe a deep, deep sigh of relief.

I clipped those chains with Elvis-leg and sweaty palms.

As I yelled down to my husband to lower, my pulse slowed and my hands stopped trembling. The first thought that came to mind was, hell yeah.

Hell yeah I just finished that super sketchy climb on lead. Hell yeah I stuck with it and didn’t need my husband to bail me out. Hell yeah I faced every fearful move I made. Hell yeah I clipped those chains with shaking limbs and sweaty palms.

Hell yeah.

A few weeks ago Coby asked me why I was writing about lessons from lead climbing instead of climbing in general (specifically TR), and I think this climb sums it up. On top rope, the experience wouldn’t have included the fear and consistent self-reassurance between each bolt. I wouldn’t have felt the surge of accomplishment in clipping the chains. On top-rope, it would have been just another straightforward, fun climb. Instead I experienced the roots of something deeper: courage.

Above all else I’ve learned from lead climbing (so far), my most important lesson centers on courage. When I don’t think I can clip another bolt or make another move, the consequences of inaction push me farther. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed anyone that told me I could lead a 12b. Forget 12b, not even a 10b. I lived in a bubble of safety. I lived believing my limits were extraordinarily lower than my capabilities. When I started lead climbing I wanted to shit my pants with every move. I wanted to lower to safety. A good majority of the time I wanted to give up. But every climb I finished I learned that I’m capable, that fear can’t stop me, and that I’m a brave MF who can do anything she sets her mind too.

I learned that I’m courageous.

Hell yeah, I am courageous.

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The Vegetarian Choice

Statistically, I’ve been a carnivore for 94% of my life, and a Vegetarian for about 5%, Vegan for <1%. I’m fascinated that I can be defined and labeled by my food choices. That choosing to not eat meat has brought on livid conversations from people I’ve not tried to attack. And yet, here I am, writing a blog post, about my choice to pursue Vegetarianism, and part-time Veganism.

It all started with documentaries and the gruesome reality of factory farming. If you can’t put a picture to the term, I recommend you search Google images to get an idea. And then I recommend doing a little more research to learn how animals are treated in these environments. How they’re injected with copious amounts of antibiotics. How they are packed into warehouses and forced to live on piles of feces. How they’re fed only to make them plump so they can be butchered.

What a life, right?

After realizing the ethical impacts of factory farming I decided to forgo the meat aisle in the supermarket. If local beef weren’t so expensive I may have incorporated that into my diet, but I was in college and it wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to early 2016 when the documentary Cowspiracy loaded onto Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet, open a new tab, type in Netflix, and search for it. It’s the most incredible look into the impacts of factory farming on our environment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty big fan of the natural world. I’ve been fortunate to visit Europe, Asia, Canada, Central America, and all fifty of the United States. I’ve traversed ridgelines in the local Wasatch Range. I’ve hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’ve stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I’ve looked out onto the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range from Granada, Spain. With each experience I’ve gained perspective and a deep love and respect for all the beauty we take for granted every single day.

It’s now a known fact that we are depleting our resources. California has been plagued by drought since 2012. Our rivers are drying up. Our winters are becoming milder by the year. Each day the rainforest loses upwards of 80,000 acres. Our earth is experiencing abnormalities across the board. The reasons why are lesser known, or incorrectly reported.

Greenhouse gas is the term swirling around in our minds when we talk about Global Warming. For years we’ve been under the impression that these Greenhouse Gasses come from the transportation sector. In the past few decades the focus has been on Carbon Dioxide, and for good reason. Consistently Carbon Dioxide ranks as the highest emitted greenhouse gas. It’s a byproduct of the transportation industry as well as power facilities: coal mines, electricity plants, and the like. What we don’t hear about, though, is the level of Methane, a lesser-known and downplayed greenhouse gas that is 23% more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. So even though the statistics on the EPA website show Agriculture as a 9% impact on greenhouse gasses, it fails to take into consideration the fact that those 9% of molecules are packing a punch 23 times that of their carbon counterparts.

Beyond the rise of greenhouse gas due to agriculture, factory farming and the raising of livestock for food accounts for 55% of water usage in the US! It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. California is experiencing a severe drought, and we are using 2500 gallons of water on one pound of beef. This blows my mind! If you’re looking for an even more mind-boggling number, animal agriculture accounts for 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually. In numeric terms, that’s 34,000,000,000,000 to 76,000,000,000,000. Even on the low end, that’s 93,150,684,931.5 gallons of water PER DAY. I can’t even comprehend how much water that is.

These are just a few of the growing number of statistics in relationship to factory farming. Head on over to Cowspiracy.com to check out their facts page and references. This is a growing muddled debate that impacts not only our world, but every person in it.

What do you think about factory farming?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-daily-destruction/

Lessons in Lead Climbing (Part 3): A Humbling

In September, the week before I got married, I sent my hardest route to date: a burly, overhung 12b in Deep Creek, Spokane, WA. Describing myself as psyched doesn’t begin cover how I felt after clipping the chains. I cried. I screamed. I laughed. I couldn’t contain myself. I’d just climbed 5.12.

And then there was the wedding, and the honeymoon, and nearly four weeks passed before I touched rock again. When my husband and I hit the gym on our first day back we felt like beginners. Our movement was flimsy, our footwork loud, and our fingers couldn’t stand the routes we wanted to test them on.

I’d always admired the strong women in the gym who were climbing and trying hard on routes with grades I’d never touched. In September, I felt like I’d started to become that woman myself. I started to become my own inspiration.

Along the way, though, my ego sneakily began it’s rise. I felt proud and badass to be climbing these routes. My head shifted away from the route I was doing to wondering what people were thinking of me. Did they think I was strong? Could they see my muscles? What would they think if I fell?

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This same kind of thinking lead me to take time away from climbing early last year. Climbing isn’t about what other people think of you. It’s not about trying to impress a boy or a girl or someone else who climbs hard. It’s about challenging yourself, discovering what you’re capable of, and tapping in to your self-reliance among many, many other things.

What a cruel form of self-sabotage to turn the mind away from the body. As soon as I started expanding my climbing beyond myself the worse my climbing became.

Coming back from four weeks off reaffirmed what I already knew. Although climbing is about the community we create and the friends we share these experiences with—when you’re on the wall, working through a pitch or your project, you’re the only one that matters. Not what you’re belayer thinks, or what the person walking by thinks, or what your mom thinks (sorry mom…). No, what matters is you focusing on you, boo boo.

I’ve pushed myself more both mentally and physically in the process of becoming a lead climber, and I think this is what gave rise to my pride. I have taken a 10-foot whipper when before I’d been deathly afraid of even falling on top rope. I have lead routes seven grades higher than I ever tried on top rope. I have seen muscles on my arms when in the past I hadn’t considered myself athletic.

I am proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for pushing beyond what I thought were my limits. I’m proud of myself for leading routes with 30 foot runouts. I’m proud of myself for getting back on the rock after it’s spit me off on the same move ten or twelve or twenty times.

I guess what keeps my pride in check is the constant falling, the constant failing. It’s tricky territory we climbers face—learning how to keep our egos in check. But I think as long as we’re aware, climbing can help to continually shape and mold us into the humans we want to be.

Keep on climbing, people.

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To the Badass Babes

Everyday I am inspired by the accounts I scroll through on Instagram. I’m impressed by the women overcoming their fears by heading into the mountains, or onto the rock, or into a yoga pose they’ve never tried before. I see women of all ages sending 5.13s in iconic places like the Red River Gorge and Yosemite. I see women breaking their PR’s in the Ironman, or 50 milers, or ultramarathons. I see women training in rain, and snow, and the humid heat.

I see progress pictures capturing how far so many have come, and I am blown away by the determination and dog-heartedness of all these women overcoming challenges that so many of us have faced, are facing, will continue to face.

We’re in this together.

I know what it’s like to be unhappy with my body and then see minor changes as my muscles begin to show themselves. I know what it’s like to be terrified in the wildnerness, by myself, wondering if I’m capable of taking another step into the unknowable forest. I know how it feels to stand at the top of a run in the backcountry, anxious about avalanches, pumped for the thigh-deep powder.

This is why whenever I see other women overcoming challenges and walking alongside their fears I want to cheer them on in their victories. I am so dang excited that I’m not alone in my trials, that we woman are a tribe. A strong mother-effin’ tribe.

So here’s to you, badass babes. Whatever stage of your adventurous journey you’re on, know that you’re not alone, that you have so many adventurous, wild women who have come before you, who will come after you, and who will come alongside you. There are women all over the world who have faced your trials—in fact, there is probably at least one other woman somewhere in this world right now, at the same point in her journey as you are. What a wonderful thought to rest in.

Wherever you are today, and whatever it is you’re working through—whatever trial you’ve faced, whatever victory you’ve won—whatever process you’re journeying through right now, know that you’re not alone, and that I’m cheering you on, you strong, inspiring woman.

Cheers!

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Lessons in Lead Climbing (Part 2): The Process

I’ve spent the majority of my life en route to the “next thing.” In middle school I wanted to be a teenager. As a teenager I wanted to drive. After my license, I wanted to graduate. Upon graduation, I wanted to be in college, and on and on and on. My goal, until recently, was this: to be there already. Unfortunately, once I got there, and threw myself a micro-victory-party, I quickly moved onto the next thing.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with this. Through my job I’ve met many people who are satisfied with this kind of lifestyle. In some ways it correlates to the American dream, which urges people onto whatever’s next, whatever’s better, whatever’s more than what they have now.

At first, I directly transferred this almost cultural lifestyle to my climbing. I climbed to get stronger. I climbed because I wanted to be a badass. I climbed because wouldn’t it be awesome to someday send a 5.12? Except I wasn’t getting strong fast enough, I certainly didn’t feel like a badass flailing all over the wall on top rope, and 5.12 seemed so flippin’ far out of reach that I quickly grew tired and disheartened and quit. I climbed infrequently and only when someone else suggested it.

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Last year I took a three month break from climbing during a particularly challenging time in my life. I needed to figure out what I found valuable, and what characteristics I desired in myself.

I frequently thought about climbing. I missed the sport, but I didn’t miss the way it made me feel. At that point, the challenge put me off. I didn’t want the hard work, the sacrifice of my time, the not being good enough (always with the not being good enough!).

During this time, I also thought about the unsatisfying accomplishments of my previous “goals.” The only goals I’d pursued were the ones that came natural to me. Any activities that built character, perseverance, and dedication were activities I stayed away from. It’s no wonder I stopped climbing. Wanting to be even remotely better than decent requires all those things I’d never given myself the opportunity to learn.

I had no idea what I was capable of.

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When I finally returned to the gym I immediately noticed a difference. The holds felt wonderful beneath my palms. The movement was natural and uninhibited. My footwork was precise and thoughtful.

Of course, this only lasted a few climbs until I was pumped out of my mind and my hands were completely raw. But it was clear to me that something changed in those three months. It wasn’t about getting stronger (which was a bonus), and it wasn’t about being cool, and it definitely wasn’t about climbing 5.12 (although that eventually came…HOORAY!!!!!!); it was simply about climbing. It became the community and the friendships, the movement, the sense of accomplishment, the feel of rock against my gnarly calloused hands. It became the sense of freedom, of courage, of facing fear and failure. It became a journey, one that I will continue for as long as I love it.

For me, climbing, and everything else in life, isn’t about the end goal, it’s about the process to get there. We spend 99% of our lives in process, and we don’t take the time to enjoy it. The first 25 years of my life were spent like this—in discontent, always reaching and aiming and dreaming of the next thing. Now I take the time to think about my goals, about what direction I want my life to take and what I have to accomplish in order to get there, but more importantly, I enjoy the minor day-to-day struggles and victories because collectively they are as important (if not even slightly more) than what lies ahead.

Happy climbing!

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Our Accidental Environmental Impacts (And How to Avoid Them)

Unfortunately, we waste a lot. We waste food, and money, and resources. We treat our environment like it’s an endless Eden, which it could be if we weren’t depleting resources at a break neck speed.

I won’t spend a ton of time on this though because I think we all know that whatever it is we’re using (water, grain, soap, etc.) it won’t be around (as we know it) for us to continue consuming into the next few centuries.

So, I’d like to offer some simple day-to-day solutions to reduce our impact on our bountiful mother earth.

  1. Bring your own mug to Starbucks
    1. Or Dutch Bros or whatever small local coffee shop you visit in the morning. Even if you only go once a week that’s 52 cups being sent to a landfill somewhere. Over the course of a lifetime that’s 3,900 cups. If half of America drinks only one cup of coffee each week for 60 years of their life, that’s 468,000,000,000 cups in landfills. And I know from working as a barista that many Americans indulge in their favorite latte more than once a week, and sometimes even more than once a day.
  2. Use your own water bottle. Always.
    1. It blows my mind how many people still purchase water bottles when our water is clean and free. And now it’s easier than ever to find a refillable water station or a plain old water fountain. Not to mention sinks…
  3. Buy reusable Ziploc bags
    1. Although it may seem like an initial investment you don’t want to make (I fought this one for a while) in the long run you’ll save money and feel better not wasting a plastic bag every time your PB&J gets smashed in your lunch box.
  4. Buy (or make) Reusable grocery bags
    1. To me this seems like a no-brainer. Although it took a while to get used to, we now keep our reusable grocery bags near the front door and in our cars so we don’t have the guilt and burden of 10,000 plastic bags under our kitchen sink.
  5. Ridejahbike!
    1. We’re inundated with the “easy” thing in the 21st We have escalators and elevators and buses and trains and taxis and whatever else you can name that makes us not depend on our own two feet. But nothing compares to riding your bike in the nice summer air with the wind blowing through your hair and your lungs feeling like they’re on fire. It makes me feel alive, and that’s enough for me.

Simple, right? These are five little things that all lessen our impact on the environment. Five simple, easy things that can help you transition to a less impactful existence.

Happy recycling!

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**For more information on how to reduce your impact on the environment head on over to http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/armenia/help_us/eco_help_living/ and http://www.instructables.com/id/100-Ways-to-Reduce-Your-Impact/ I also recommend checking out the slew of documentaries on Netflix. My current favorite is Cowspiracy.

Lessons in Lead Climbing (Part 1): Elvis Leg Isn’t the End

Four years ago I took my first lead fall in a tiny college gym in Cheney, WA. The class had been short and I’d completed it with three of my good friends. We’d spent a few hours learning the basics of lead climbing like how not to z-clip or backclip. We learned how to give and take slack and how to jump at just the right time to ensure a softer fall for your climber. We had gone through all the basics and now it was time to pass the lead climbing test. It was a moderate 5.8 climb with holds for days, but I was still shaking and nervous because I knew the closer I got to the top the sooner I’d have to let go and trust that I wouldn’t deck and end my life.

It took me fifteen minutes to let go of those stupid plastic holds.

At that point I thought to myself, Alright Megan, nice work, you learned how to lead climb, now you can go back to top-roping for the rest of your days. Because NO WAY was I going to put myself in that situation again. No thank you, I will pass.

Unfortunately for me and my fear, my insistent friends had different plans for me.

Not long after the class, the four of us hit the road to northwestern Montana in search of limestone and campfires and wine. We were stoked to be on an all girls climbing trip. We didn’t need men to rope gun for us! We knew how to lead climb, dammit, and lead climb we…might.

On our first pitch we all chickened out before the first bolt. We’d caress the start holds, hoping they’d unlock some secret power within us that would enable us to float up the wall, but nothing happened. We barely even got our feet off the ground.

We regrouped and found another pitch that looked a little more forgiving and I decided I was going to do it. I’d climbed 5.8’s tens, if not hundreds of times. Physically it was possible.

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I roped up, did my buddy check, and was on my way, one tepid move after another. With every vertical movement, my breathing come quicker and my Elvis-leg threatened to shake me right off the wall. But if I bailed, and none of the other girls could make it to the top, then we would lose gear, and I was determined to bring my shiny new quickdraws home with me.

Disbelief washed over me as I clipped into the chains. I’d done it. I’d lead a route outside and I didn’t die! Hallelujah!

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When my introspection came, as it usually does, I gained some perspective about climbing. Like how many people are climbing every single day, and how many of those people return home safely. Or the fact that these routes are bolted with protection in mind, and the purpose of the rope and the quickdraws and the bolts are to work harmoniously together in order to keep climbers off the deck. Now, granted, this doesn’t always happen, but now, in the five and a half years I’ve been climbing, I’ve seen someone (my brother, actually) really deck only once, and he walked away with a bruised ankle.

All these what-if’s and fat-chances are the nemesis of my climbing. Whether I’m on the wall, walking to the wall, standing below the wall, on top of the wall—these are the ideas that invade my mind. Ideas of bolts pulling, of harnesses failing, of choss cascading off the wall. Constantly I remind myself that while these things can happen, chances are that they won’t. Chances are, whatever climb I’m attempting I’ll finish it the way I’ve finished the others: with a little bit of style and some awesome Adam Ondra inspired yells.

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Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen. -Doe Zantamata