I lived a block away from Brooklyn Boulders Somerville (BKBS) for four years before I tried rock climbing.
My roommate, a longtime member, repeatedly invited me to climb but I evaded his appeals with the usual excuses: I’ve never done it before, I’m not going to be good at it, I’m too busy, etc.
It was only once I got a job at BKBS teaching yoga and working the front desk that I finally gave climbing a try. I immediately kicked myself in the gluteus maximus for not getting on the wall sooner. I had a blast sending V0s and V1s (to send = to complete a bouldering problem) and top roping 5.7s and 5.8s (top roping = climbing secured by a rope and a belayer), but that’s where it stopped. Completing a V2 boulder problem? Couldn’t do it. Making my way to the top of a 5.9? Impossible.
I’d always been the kind of person who really liked to be good at things…and didn’t like to be bad at them. I’d never hesitate to give new activities a try—auditioning for the school play, joining my college crew team, attempting to cook myself a meal—but when I got assigned to the chorus, was placed in the second-tier boat, or overcooked my chicken, I promptly quit.
My approach to climbing was no different.
If I fell halfway up a bouldering problem, I’d stop trying after one or two attempts. And when I got stuck top roping, I’d immediately have my belay partner lower me down, naively assuming that there was no point in continuing after coming off the wall more than a few times.
So when the opportunity to go on a BKBWild trip with a few co-workers presented itself, I was frankly more interested in the idea of getting out of the city and immersed in nature than I was in actually climbing outdoors. Little did I know, the trip would change my perspective on the sport entirely.
The mission of BKBWild is to bridge the gap between indoor training and outdoor adventure by offering immersive and all-level climbing, hiking, camping, and surfing trips. I was fortunate enough to travel to Maine’s Acadia National Park, where I spent two days scaling the world-renowned granite slabs that dot the park’s Atlantic coastline.
When you climb outside, there are no brightly colored holds that line your route. You can’t see the way a particular problem or route is set. Sometimes you don’t even know what grade you’re climbing until you get on the rock. This means that you have to be thoughtful about your movements and understand that if you come off the wall when you’re climbing a top-managed belay system, you have no choice other than to keep on going.
There was a point during one of my climbs when I reached a crux that I simply couldn’t get past. Small cracks in flat rock below an overhang that I must have tried 30 or so times. Each time I tried, I learned a little bit more about the way in which I should move my body, adjust my grip, and distribute my weight to inch up the wall.
It was challenging, but at no point did I feel defeated. I’ve since tried to pinpoint where exactly I found the allowance to put my ego aside and find joy in the difficulty of the task. I know it came, in part, from the encouragement and beta of the guide belaying me—but there’s also something grandly inspiring about scaling a 110-foot rockface suspended above white-capped waves.
Alone on the rock, with the endless grey horizon at my back, I finally understood that when it comes to climbing, part of the thrill—part of the sport—is figuring out how to do it. In bouldering, the routes are called “problems” because they’re meant to take a long time to solve. And when I did complete the route, the sense of accomplishment I felt was overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve smiled wider than when my chalk-covered hands reached over the top of that slab, rising to my feet and standing tall over the edge of Otter Cliffs.
I was watching The Office recently and noticed Michael Scott’s poster of a rock climber silhouetted against a sunset. It dawned on me: there’s a reason you always see climbers on motivational posters. Climbing epitomizes risk taking, goal-reaching, dedication and perseverance. The quotes you find attributed to the sport are no less clichéd than Michael’s character himself—”you only fail when you stop trying,” “it’s the courage to continue that counts,” or “it’s not how many times you come off, it’s how many times you get back on”—but in the end, they’re also true.
Are you ready to experience BKB Wild for yourself? Join us for an upcoming trip! We’ll be heading to the Adirondacks from August 29 to September 1 and Acadia from September 5-8. Click here to learn more and sign up. And when you get back from your trip, tell us about your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on the blog. See you outside!
“It was challenging, but at no point did I feel defeated. I’ve since tried to pinpoint where exactly I found the allowance to put my ego aside and find joy in the difficulty of the task. I know it came, in part, from the encouragement and beta of the guide belaying me—but there’s also something grandly inspiring about scaling a 110-foot rockface suspended above white-capped waves.”
About the Author: Mimi Rose Hammer is a digital nomad, yogi, climber and writer. Her pastimes include creating hand-made embroidery hoops, reading Modernist-era novels, and identifying constellations in the Northern Hemisphere.