The difficult things can be hard to talk about because, well, they’re hard. Just to be clear, this is not a climbing podcast. This is a funny/sad/somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability, talking openly about our pain, our most awkward moments, and how we are all really just shining examples of this messy human existence. Lots of things can happen in a lifetime, and this podcast is about all of those ugly, awful things that we all have to go through in life.
This episode is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Music by: “Flagger” by Blue Dot Sessions and “Tomorrow” and “Funny Song” by bensound.com.
(MALE VOICE): Alright, I think failure is one of my fears in climbing because I’ve been climbing for quite some time and the expectation of sending something harder than most is quite daunting sometimes. But – it challenges me as well, so failure makes me a better person and that’s what I love (it) – the most – about, just not only climbing, but in life in general. It’s rad.
(KATHY KARLO): My name is Kathy and you’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This podcast is brought to you by Dirtbag Climbers, based out of Atlanta, Georgia.
A few years ago, I started a blog to let my mom know that I was still alive. I hit the road for twelve months and I shared a few stories (some of them happy, and some of them not so happy). This podcast is kind of like that, except – these are your stories.
The difficult things can be hard to talk about because, well, they’re hard – but I think that they’re also worth sharing. It can be scary to admit that you don’t have it all figured out, but sharing the complicated and imperfect parts of our lives sends this message to everyone around us: that life is made up of highs and lows, rather than just a highlight reel of best moments.
One aspect of climbing is letting go and putting it all out there in order to reach the top. Much like in life, we wind up advertising to the world: “Here I am! This is me, here is a shortcoming, a failure, a weakness.” And then, we pray that we aren’t judged and ask to be accepted. We all have these stories that go untold, but to use them to make a difference in the world, to transform ourselves, to broaden our perspective – it’s brave, like attempting a bold climb. And, maybe it will change somebody else’s perspective, too.
When we show up as we really are, whether intentional or not, we create a community built on trust and empathy. There’s value in struggle, in choosing vulnerability. And sometimes, we don’t always see it right away, but my hope is that sharing these stories will create some new connections. And if even one person listening to this podcast relates, then I won’t feel so bad for buying all of this equipment that I really don’t know how to use. (Seriously, can anybody help?)
I’ve shared some of my stories and what have I gained? A whole buttload! The ability to see and grow beyond them, to realize that I’m not defined by a single success or otherwise, that I bungle it up the same way that everyone else bungles it up – that I’m not the only one who experiences disappointment and loss and failure.
(MALE VOICE): I would say for me, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in climbing is my depression and the irrational fears that it causes – the fears of falling and dying on a constant basis. It’s pushed me to find health and it’s pushed me to new boundaries that I’ve never thought I’ll ever be in.
(FEMALE VOICE): As we were talking about hardship related to climbing, I was starting to feel kind of frustrated. And I was kinda like, yo, why are we scared? And one of the things that I’ve had difficulty overcoming is how matter of fact things are. And it’s difficult to accept that we’ll continue to make mistakes and that gravity will do what it does so well. And you can, you know, have backups to the backups and train super duper hard and just not fall or something, but it’s just that challenges come unexpected and there’s only so much precaution you can take before human error gets the best of us. It’s just been hard for me to accept that these accidents and mistakes, you know, leave us broken and without the people that we love.
(MALE VOICE): So, the most difficult thing I’ve found about climbing is, uh, the injuries., Because you never really wanna take the time to fully recover. But I’ve learned that you can fix that with, uh, painkillers and whiskey.
(MALE VOICE): So, I think that it was actually pain that got me climbing. It was a while after a really horrible break up, and I don’t know, I think that that sort of heartache was the only thing that was strong enough to make me not worry about my fear of heights. And I said, I think that was kind of the catalyst in my life that got me actually climbing.
(MALE VOICE): Two weeks before leaving for Patagonia, I was diagnosed with a stage three cancer. I spent the next six months getting chemo infusions and having my life flipped upside down. I learned that the support of friends, family and the climbing community can help someone overcome great odds. And while you can’t always choose the things that happen to you, you can choose how you deal with it. Hold fast, all storms pass.
(FEMALE VOICE): Climbing has brought me more strength than some of the most beautiful relationships that I have. But with the joy and the beauty, there’s also been a lot of pain. Fuck death. If you stay in the game long enough, you will experience death in this community. Fuck death! I like my friends way better when they’re alive. So yeah, I don’t know. Climbing, climbing is a hard mix between joy, some of the most, like, incredible joy and relationships I’ve ever experienced, but also, also pain. That’s kind of like life, eh?
(MALE VOICE): Then, far down on the descent, unroped, I saw him slip and watched him fall into oblivion. In that moment, I was so alone, so filled with pain, grief, crying and vomiting all at the same time. Staggering towards the near village in complete shock, the worst was yet to come – calling his wife and parents.
(MALE VOICE): And without really considering the fact that in thirty some feet, I’d only placed two cams. I didn’t know how either of them were. I didn’t know what a good cam looked like. Honestly, none of my partners that I climbed with before that point told me that I placed shitty cams.
(MALE VOICE): It’s just when you say grieving, you kinda gotta accept the fact even when you’re eighty, you’re still going to be in this process. And it really doesn’t matter why trauma hits you; we live in a universe built off chaos.
(MALE VOICE): I guess my biggest fear with climbing is that it’s not worth all of the attention that I pay to it. Especially if it ends up killing me – which, it might do.
(FEMALE VOICE): My ex-boyfriend always wanted me to perform at a much higher climbing level than I think I have it in me to. Climbing with him was a constant lesson in not being good enough. He’d put up warm-ups that were out of my projecting grade and then yell at me when it took me a long time to go from draw to draw to the anchors. To be honest, I have trouble believing people when they tell me that it’s okay if I take a long time, and it’s okay if I don’t want to finish a route.
(FEMALE VOICE): My entire life changed in an instant. I could see when he came in that there was something different in the way that he looked at me. It shifted from seeing me as a human to seeing me as an object.
(MALE VOICE): A moment within my climbing career that sticks out to me was my first time going outdoor bouldering in a small town called LaFayette, Georgia. Historically speaking, uh, a lot of rural areas in the south have been dangerous places for a lot of black people, particularly black men. A lot of those areas were life-threatening for a lot of people who looked like me. So, to be up there amongst all of that symbolism was a bit surreal to me. I just thought, what the hell am I doing up here?
(MALE VOICE): The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome in the outdoors is not, um, my mother’s death. It’s what my mother’s death left me with.
(KATHY KARLO): Just to be clear, this is not a climbing podcast. This podcast is not about me, and maybe it isn’t necessarily about you. Lots of things can happen in a lifetime, and this podcast is about all of those ugly, awful things that we all have to go through in life. And climbing is just sort of the catalyst here. We are going to hear about some pretty tough things but, sprinkled in between will be some stories that will lift you up, and might even make you smile. And that’s kind of like life, right? We need the dark and the light, the sweet and the bitter – and may our lives be all the richer for it.
(FEMALE VOICE): The first time I tried rock climbing, I came to it for all of the wrong reasons. I was pretending to be brave, pretending to be strong, and when I fell, it scared me. And I didn’t try again for years. But now I know – I am brave and I’ll get strong. And this time I’m not afraid of the fall, ‘cause when I do, I know I’ll just get back on the wall and I’ll climb again.
(MALE VOICE): So, here I am sitting on this hospital bed, thinking about all of my favorite memories. I’m thinking about climbing and hiking and swimming. And I start to realize that every single one of these memories, you know, my leg is right there with me. And I’m kind of trying to find a moment when I’ve been separated with my leg but I guess we’ve always been so close, it’s just never happened, you know? We’ve never had any issues. So, the fact that now I might be separated from this leg, it’s really starting to worry me.
(FEMALE VOICE): The hardest thing about being in love with mountains is you often have the best dates with people who are just about to leave for Alaska.
(FEMALE VOICE): I used to struggle with bulimia. It was hard because, I mean, have you ever taken laxatives? In the woods? You literally can’t predict that shit. But, in the end, I learned that people care in all the right ways and that wiping your butt with leaves is never the right answer.
(FEMALE VOICE): We either like to talk about the struggle too much or we don’t talk about it at all, and I mean, I think that some of what we should be celebrating is what people went through to get to a certain place. My story of climbing is way bigger than any of the climbs I did.
(MALE VOICE): The most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to grapple with in climbing is actually whether I should climb at all. Uh, I’ve had so many close calls from, falling rock on alpine routes to massive runouts on micro nuts, you know, taking factor two falls on c3 aid climbs. Those, actually, were in some ways more okay, ‘cause I was the one taking the risk. But, even worse, I’ve had friends get hurt and so many of our heroes have died. And in spite of all that, climbing has delivered some of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I don’t think there are simple answers. The question of risk versus reward – it’s constantly changing, you know, how I feel about it, it’s so intensely personal, it’s so fluid. It’s dynamic. But for now, I continue to climb and I continue to assess the risks and I think that process is all you can do. But I think it’s an important one.
(KATHY KARLO): So, I’m really excited about this and I hope that you’ll stick around for the first episode! You can subscribe in iTunes or where ever you listen to podcasts. And you should subscribe in iTunes, so that when we come out with the first episode, it will be ready and waiting for you – it can be your “I liked it before it was cool” thing! Like a cronut. (Yeah, I just compared this podcast to a cronut.)
Stay tuned for the first episode this summer! This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Again, I’m Kathy and you’re awesome, and this is For the Love of Climbing.
(MALE VOICE): ‘Allo? This is Tom Randall from the UK, speaking direct at a London ten.