climber

Category Archives: 5.12’s

Be a Climber: Quitting (and re-creating) Your Day Job

The juxtaposition of my life does not go unnoticed by my closest friends and family. On one hand I love order, control, routine. Type A personality stuff. On the other hand, the well-defined and fully explored bores me to death and I crave adventure, the unknown, something new and ever-changing where the outcome is uncertain.

While those seem to be at great odds with each other, they come together in perfect harmony for me in the form of calculated risk. It’s the best of both worlds really. Let me give you a few examples. Before children, I free soloed and did X-rated routes up to 5.12. I can’t actually think of a single case when the route wasn’t an onsight. It had adventure, the terrain was unknown (to me) and the route was new (again, to me). But anyone who has done much of that kind of climbing also knows if it’s too adventurous, too unknown, and the outcome is too uncertain, well then, you can’t do it for very long and live to tell about it. Free soloing for me was equally about control and order. I was intimately familiar with the rock type and the climbing area. I felt, tested, and retested every hold before committing. I never climbed up something I couldn’t climb down. In fact I’ve backed off 5.7s as many times as I’ve backed off 5.11s. Yes there was risk. Yes I could have fallen. But those odds were slim. They were calculated risks.

Here’s another example. I received my Master’s degree in Special Education and found a knack for working with students with emotional disabilities in impoverished neighborhoods (the “ghetto” to you layman folk). Real-deal gangbangers with rap sheets and weapons charges that were known for violence. Most had given up on them so in turn, these types of students were quick to dismiss others (often violently). Calculated risk. I had the educational training – the strategies to diffuse the situation. I also have the personality to relate to them on their level, gain their trust, and push them toward a more positive direction. But it’s not without challenges and sometimes real dangers. I’ve had students get extremely angry – try to punch me, throw chairs at me, and worse. But I had the tools and mindset to get out of those situations (mostly) unscathed. The flip side is that teaching in a public school offers security and routine on some levels, yet every day was different. What worked with a kid yesterday won’t work with that same kid tomorrow. You must always adapt, constantly learn and improve. It kept me on my toes and was a good balance for me for a long time.

Fast forward and here I am, smack-dab in the middle of my thirties. I crave a change – a massive life shake up. Perhaps just ahead of the curve on a mid-life crisis. My mom always said I was advanced for my age. Anyway, teaching has given me so much and I hope that in return I have given something back to the kids I’ve worked with over the last 12 years. But it is too routine now, too “safe”, too familiar. My adult obligation of financial security I owe my family pulls me in one direction while the desire to take a risk and choose a new career path pulls me in another. I could not find balance between the two.

But I’m not a risk taker. While what I wrote above would seem to contradict that to some – what I mean is I’m not an “unknown outcome” kind of risk taker. Imagine this scenario for a minute: You flip a coin. Heads I win a dollar, tails you win a dollar. I do not see it as a 50/50 chance of winning a dollar. I see it as me losing a dollar. The odds are too unfavorable – there is too much risk. I would never agree to flip the coin. The risk must be low. I’ve built too much of a life to gamble any of it. Yet to some degree, there needs to be a little risk to entice me. Where is the balance? It’s different for each of us and it’s taken me a long time to finally find it.

I’ve been a rock climber for more years of my life than not. I’ve worked in gear shops, climbing gyms, for gear manufacturers, and even own a climbing publishing company called Fixed Pin. I have no formal education in “climbing business” but I know it better than anything else, perhaps better than I even know teaching. Climbing is my religion. I’m not a zealot but it is how I decompress, how I commune with nature, and how I rebalance myself. When I’m out of whack, my wife tells me to go climbing and I come home happier, more patient, and a better life partner and father overall. Some drink, some pray. I climb. Climbing is all I want to be around. I want to talk about it, write about it, and well, just do it. Enter Gravity One Climbing + Fitness.

I had always thought starting a climbing gym would be incredible but it seemed a bit too unrealistic for me. They cost millions of dollars to start up after all. But I have found that, perhaps through happenstance, I have been building up to this moment my entire adult life. I have the right experience (work and personal), the right connections, the right motivation, and the right amount of risk tolerance to venture off into the unknown – quit my government job as a public-school teacher that I virtually could never be fired or downsized from and start my own business where I am my own boss. All decisions directly affect me, good and bad. I could win big or I could lose it all. But it’s calculated. And isn’t that what being a climber means? Taking calculated risks. Isn’t that the lesson we all experience every time we go out to the crags? We leave the safety of the ground, where yes, we could fall back down to it. But we have ropes and protection and a trusted belayer to catch us. Things could go wrong – a piece could pull, a clip could be botched, a belayer could give too much slack. But rarely do we experience any of those things. We fall but only a little bit. We take comfort in both the risk itself as well as knowing that those risks have been greatly mitigated. Our partner has us. Our rope and gear will catch us. We push ourselves sometimes to places that are uncomfortable but we revel in that feeling once back on the ground, sometimes hours, days, or even weeks later. We retell those events over beers and around campfires trying to recapture that feeling. To me, that’s what it means to be a climber. Leave yourself exposed just enough to feel uncomfortable but not be in danger. I just feel so fortunate that I’ve finally learned how to carry that over into my professional life and to be able to experience a feeling of balance of calculated risk outside of climbing itself.

Integration

I love climbing.

Central Park this fall
I enjoy moving in the mountains for hours at a time.  
I love a good glass of wine and laughter filling the room.  
I love falling in love, playing the piano, learning, teaching, and a full breathe filling my lungs.
The list could go on.    
This fall was filled with some unbelievably good times along with some heartbreaking ridiculousness.  
I haven’t slept in the same bed for more than 3 nights since September 1st.  This in part to–too much travel, a break-up turned sour, and two residential moves.   
2nd Meat Wall -Indian Creek (Photo Nathan Welton)
We have had two fires in the town of Estes Park.  The first one, in June, saw KMAC evacuated and the boys running around to save Harry’s house and property.  As I write, the Fern Lake fire continues to smoulder over Eagle Cliff –closing in on the 66 corridor.    
Top Sirloin — Nathan Welton
In early November, I took a 25 foot fall in Zion, thinking I broke my hand and my femur.  Fortunately, my helmet-less-ego-hurt body faced only minor injuries considering the rock broke, my blue Alien popped and I fell upside-down below my belayer and the ledge he was standing on.  Andrew caught me abruptly.  The only other piece I had placed was a .03 Black Diamond Cam and it was only 4 feet above our belay.  I limped noticeably for 2 weeks with a giant softball muscle wad in my left thigh and a purple thumb/palm that still refuses to hold a plate or zip my fly without pain.  
We also elected, as a Nation, to keep our current president.  I am happy about that.  I had an amazing 80’s prom themed birthday party and I have made some moves towards forwarding my company Dovetail Mountain Endeavors.

Lightening Bolt Crack-North Sixth Shooter (Nathan Welton)
All of these events have thrust me into a whirlwind of thoughts and actions.  Learning to trust myself, my instincts.  More importantly, to ask for help and take it when it is given selflessly. 
  
I am learning to place less value on the things in my life.  I am thankful for the people within the moments and the moments as they happen–good or bad.    
The gang atop the N.Sixth Shooter– Nathan, Quinn, Dustin, Prairie, and Matty.  

I continue to climb because it is ingrained in my soul to move, to explore with a sweaty brow, to push through my fears with tears welled in the corner of my eyes.

I continue to teach, to learn, to grow.  I feel a little slow in my attempts towards integration…but better than not at all….Right?

Taking in the vast Canyonlands vista


“Think of the state of mind you were in before you began reading.  It was a fresh mind.  With no ideas, you came with a fresh mind to look at this book (blog).  If we can maintain that state in our daily lives, that is known as integration.  To be fully integrated means to integrate oneself totally from the body to the self and also to live in integration with one’s neighbours and surroundings….. In this way we remain ever fresh, ever peaceful, and with ever growing intelligence.”

BKS Iyengar–The Tree of Yoga

  
Lungs filled, hearts sighing.  

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

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