Have you ever been to the bouldering section of a climbing gym? Allow me to set the scene: It’s often a cave-like area, where a handful of people actually climb and dozens more cluster in groups and stare at the climber while waiting their turn. It’s horrifying.
Not for the climbers who are easily finishing a V5, obviously. Or even the climbers who fail on the V8, because hell, it was a V8. But a late-thirties mom might look at those fit twenty-somethings with their man buns and pre-baby abs and worry that she will look foolish trying a V1 for the first time. Or the fifth time, for that matter.
And she would be right.
It’s hard not to care that I am a decade older than 99 percent of the climbers in the bouldering cave. In the top-rope or sport-climb area, it’s less pronounced. Sure, twenty-somethings are the majority, but there are plenty of climbers my age, and at least a handful or two who are well into their fifties and sixties. Not true of the bouldering cave. Here, I feel like I don’t belong, like I’m in one of those “spot the difference” pictures on a diner placemat: One of these things is not like the others.
Maybe I shouldn’t care what people think. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about looking old or foolish or what have you. But I’m shallow and vain, so there you go. I care.
Until I’m actually on the wall. Then I’m not thinking about who is watching me. I’m thinking about if I do this crazy move, will it get me where I need to go, not whether my ass looks weird. (I’m sure it does; but I’m not thinking about that.) I’m also thinking don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall, because falling is still scary as fuck. Most of the time, I’m also thinking, holy shit, this is fun.
And so I do it again.