Let’s run the numbers.
Replacing the key crux stopper, 4 times: $36
3 ropes beaten to worthless fuzz: $450
Gas to drive from my home to the trailhead (I’m guessing at least 20 times): $150
Visits to my physical therapist to undo the damage of repeatedly thrashing myself on the powerful fingerlock crux: $640
6 months of gym membership strictly to train for one route: $480
And then there are the costs beyond the financial:
- the hours spent beating my head against the wall trying to find a way to fit my fat fingers deep enough into the crack to make upward progress
- the sleepless nights, discouraged that I wasn’t good enough and then, when it seemed in reach, fretting about a perfect execution of the moves
- the meals and massages I offered to my wife for not climbing where she wanted and instead belaying me, again, and again (and again)
- the shreds of skin and drops of blood
- all the other routes I could have climbed instead of falling off the same one over and over again
The calculus of a rock climbing obsession is tough to equalize. We give up all kinds of things for what amounts to little more than monkeying around, silly games on a high-stakes playing field. We ask a lot of our partners, both in climbing and in other aspects of life. They sit silently tethered to the end of our rope while we swing around hoping to sketch together a series of usable holds, or patiently rewarm dinner when we come home late and dejected from not making “progress” and swallow the worry that our tardiness was an omen of something worse than failing to stick the crux moves.
But our obsession also reflects our commitment to a goal, an ideal. We strip everything down, chisel our life to a precise myopia. The minutia, finding just the right position for a foot jammed in the crack or combination of crystals on which to hang the skin of our fingers to generate upward movement, becomes the lever to lift our spirit. And if we focus, obsess, fret, and dream about that one thing, we might get lucky enough for it, for a fleeting moment, to be our universe, when the next breath, making one move higher, becomes all that is.
That moment, when we let that beast of obsession out in a long guttural scream and look down to see that we just did what we thought we’d never be able to do, is, you know, priceless.