Daring Courage   3 comments

We are a family of rock-climbers. Back before we had kids, I used to join Brad in bouldering and an occasional free climb. After we had kids, I mostly stuck to bouldering because kids need at least one parent to raise them and Brad wasn’t volunteering to stay on the ground. Climbing is hard on your hands and I make my living with the nimbleness of my fingers, so walls had never really been my thing anyway.

Our daughter did her first free solo when she was about 14. She wasn’t actually supposed to make that particular climb of the face at Angel Creek Rocks that day. She didn’t have climbing shoes, a harness or ropes. Those were in her dad’s back pack. That, by the way, is the difference between free climbing (which is done with ropes in case you miss a hand hold) and solo free climbing, which is done with climbing shoes and a chalk bag.

Brad and I were shepherding the boys (Kyle and a friend would have been about 8) up to the top of the tors by a safe-ish route when we heard a shout from Ginny, Bri’s friend. We followed her voice until we came to the drop off about halfway up the wall. I leaned out and looked up to see Ginny halfway up, her arms shaking, her fingers reaching for and just missing a two-finger hold. I looked up farther and stopped breathing.

Bri was much higher than Ginny. Barefoot with no chalk or helmet and no safety gear, she was monkeying her way up the face. Her longer arms and legs meant she should reach holds that Ginny couldn’t and she was almost to the top.

Brad shouted up to Ginny and ascertained that she was stuck. I ran up the hiking trail to the crest and dropped a rope. By that time, Brad had free soloed up to Ginny. After tying her off, he escorted her back down the wall while I dealt with Bri.

Did I mention she’s a gypsy bluegrass musician now. She’s climbed all over the country. She’s not good enough to make the news, but I sometimes wonder when we’ll get a call that she’s missed a handhold. Fortunately, she’s realized that the thick calluses of a full-time climber interferes with playing the guitar and mandolin, so she’s not trying to high climbs as much. She still scares me.

Our son is now into climbing, but he recognizes that safety equipment is good … for now. The day will come when he moves from wanting to be a Stone Master to becoming a Stone Monkey. The Masters used ropes as a safety device. The Monkeys … not so much. We watched Valley Uprising the other night and I watched the glint in his eyes. As a parent, sometimes you have to be courageous because you can’t stop them from risking their lives.

And, I “get” it. There is something about climbing a wall. When you get to the top and look out across the valley — wow. Climbers, whether Christians or atheists, speak of a spiritual experience that comes from it. I’m sure it has something to do with overcoming terror to master the rock.

I have a great respect for falling. So does Brad. Kyle still does, but it may be fading (I’m praying he misses a handhold on ropes someday soon). Bri never did. Courage operates in many ways and one of those ways is in the willingness to pit your body against nature and defy gravity. There’s a whole subculture of rock climbers who don’t just see pretty mountains, but jungle gyms for their personal enjoyment. They get something from it, something visceral, a spiritual experience. You can view it as foolhardy daring-do or you can view it as an extreme sport whose practitioners know what they risk and are willing to risk it.

3 responses to “Daring Courage

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  1. Love this article and thanks for sharing. I imagine how beautiful your rock climbing experiences are. Can’t imagine doing it myself…too late in the game.

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  2. Brad still climbs walls. My elbows don’t enjoy it, so I stick to bouldering — sometimes pretty vertical bouldering (like the picture of the little kid). The best views are from the top, so for me, it is worth it, but often there’s another way to the top of that cliff and I don’t mind hiking to it.

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  3. This is technically a blog hop – check out Stephany’s profile in Courage on her website. http://www.stephanytullis.com/blog/mohammed-ali-he-was-the-greatest

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