We squat in a wind shelter made of white granite stones, taking photos of the Colorado sunset. I look around: the shelter is six feet by three, dug into a hillside above treeline. It doesn’t seem particularly well-made. Actually, I can’t tell if anyone “made” it at all. It could just be a small hollow in the side of the mountain, offering fortunate and exploratory souls some respite from the wall of air whipping up and over the nearby ridgeline. The wind chill and the sun dip together, partners in an icy dance. I’m thankful for the shelter. However it came to be, here we are.
Yesterday I was in Denver. Working.
Not working in the classic sense of the word (hermetic freelancers do not often find themselves in office environments), but many typical side effects of work were present. Mental fatigue. A sore back and a tweaked neck from hours of staring down a laptop screen. Ravenous hunger. The typical headache caused by a coffee chugged too late. An extreme desire to just . . . leave. I knew I had to get into the mountains.
It was time for a climbing trip.
Why You Should Go
The unspoken reason behind so many climbing trips is a simple thought: Haven’t been on a climbing trip in a while! It’s not even a conscious notion we have—just a common synapse of the climber brain. Veteran climbers may not realize they have a problem, but climbing trip addiction is a thing.
Maybe you’re a newcomer to the sport, fresh-faced and eager to pull on real rock. Whoever you are, the advantages of a timely and well-planned climbing trip are many. Here are 5 reasons you should go on one.
1. The road trip is half the fun
Phase 1 of any climbing trip is travel. Some people hate traveling, and for good reason. Sitting in a noxious airplane cabin while a small child kicks your seat—that’s a bad time. But the classic travel model of a climbing trip is much different: it usually involves a road trip with people you know and love.
Use the time in the car to your advantage. It’s not uncommon to drive through some of the most gorgeous natural environments your country has to offer—take some photos and make some memories. Talk to each other. Download as many interesting podcasts as possible (like this one and this one) before you leave on your trip. As you gain new knowledge, you’ll be shocked at how quickly they pass the time!
2. Hang out with your climbing friends
When we’re stuck in the city, working all day and drinking beers of self-pity and sadness afterward, we tend to hang out with work friends. A climbing trip is a perfect opportunity to switch things up and spend time with people who share your passion for climbing. Climbers are strange and unique. Learn as much as you can from these weird friends.
3. Work away from work
I think it’s safe to say that most of us would rather climb than work. But for people who enjoy what they do for a living, it can be hard to justify going on an unproductive “vacation.” But this is a climbing trip—this is not the time to drink margaritas on a beach somewhere (beers around a campfire, though . . . that’s a different story).
This trip is an opportunity to invest your time and effort into a much more personal kind of work. Climbing successfully outside is damn hard; you have to be willing to put an immense amount of energy into it. For a truly rewarding climbing trip, prepare yourself to work just as hard (if not harder) to succeed as you would at your job.
4. Gain new climbing skills
Outside climbing is different. Because you’re far away from the safe environment of the gym, you’ll be forced to overcome new, unexpected challenges. Oh, you’ve never grabbed a sharp crimp like that? Never been forced to stand up on a smeary, non-existent foot hold? Never clipped a bolt or placed a cam with 300 feet of wide open nothingness below you? Then prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else.
If you’re going on your first climbing trip, remember: it’s not supposed to be a cakewalk. You’re probably going to get your ass kicked. And that’s how it should be. You learn nothing without adversity. So embrace the challenge, embrace the failure, and look forward to getting better.
5. Make new connections
Popular climbing destinations are jam-packed with stunningly fascinating individuals. Remember earlier when I advised you to learn from your weird friends? Well, most of the climbers you’ll meet on a climbing trip are even weirder. These are people who came to some strange place to find the hardest way up a rock. And, more often than not, they’re willing to climb with you, share beta, and remain in contact after you part ways.
I’ve met people from California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Washington, North Carolina; all over the States. My friend and I shared a memorable evening with two dirtbags in Joe’s Valley, Utah, in which we marveled behind cover as they threw canisters of propane into their campfire.
I’ve met people from France, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, Australia, and elsewhere. I lived next door to Dai Koyamada for a week or two in a Swiss hostel, too shy to say anything except hello! (and I suppose the language barrier played a role).
I’ve made enough connections with people hailing from these parts of the world that you might think I was a travel blogger. Or an international businessman. Or a smuggler. But nope, I’m just a climber. If you go on a climbing trip—to anywhere, really—you’ll meet all sorts of people you’ll never forget. And that fact alone makes it all worth it.
6. Heal your soul in the great outdoors
A climbing trip isn't just a great way to spend time with your friends and meet new people. It also gives us a chance to reconnect with the natural world. Considering all the hidden stresses and anxieties of everyday life, simply being outside can be the remedy we didn't know we needed.
Turn off your phone. Breathe the air sifting through the pine trees. Let the sand drift through your fingers and blow away. Look around you. You're living in one of nature’s most beautiful areas, right now. Whatever you left behind doesn't matter; whatever you need to do tomorrow isn't important. You're here, you're a climber, and you’re lucky enough to interact with this ancient, pristine landscape. Enjoy it.
Once you take a climbing trip, you’ll realize just how much the outside world has to offer us rock fondlers. If you’re interested in climbing outside for the first time, check out the six things you must know before climbing outside before heading out. If you’re an experienced outdoor climber, check out our guide on finding and climbing your next project. The perfect conditions and cool temps of autumn are upon us: get outside and climb!
Have some crazy stories to share? We want to hear them! Tell us your favorite stories about your climbing trips in the comments!