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Climbing & The Pursuit of Happiness

People often talk about pursuing happiness, but I’m beginning to believe that if we spend all of our time chasing something, the further away from us it will travel.

Kathy climbing Joe's Valley, Utah. Photo by Jon Vickers.
Kathy climbing Joe's Valley, Utah. Photo by Jon Vickers.

Believing that we are in search of it suggests that it hasn’t arrived yet, and perhaps it never will. It’s too easy to become stuck in the mind frame that “I could finally feel happy if I could find the right relationship, career or other materialistic item”.


Only on Earth, Twall Tennessee. Photo by Dan Von Brocklin.
Only on Earth, Twall Tennessee. Photo by Dan Von Brocklin.

The pursuit of an idea that something can come with the promise of being happy delivers the message that happiness is the ultimate destination, a fixed point that we will reach when we find the right things to fulfill us.

But what if, instead of searching for the message, we live it?

I left Brooklyn in December of 2014 with grand dreams of climbing Colorado rock and ice, but was ultimately hoping to gain clarification on my life path and where I was supposed to be. Both rock and ice were climbed, beer was consumed, and new friends made – all with an impending expiration date. And then suddenly in the following weeks, I was receiving congratulations on quitting my job when all I could do was feel anxious heart flutters as I’d become more and more terrified of not knowing what comes next.


 Boat Rock, Georgia.
Boat Rock, Georgia.

And the truth is, we will never know what comes next; life is too much of a crapshoot to ever really know. I was first introduced to the Gunks four years ago, and at that time had no way of knowing what incredible future was waiting for me in climbing.

Quitting my job isn’t going to instantly solve all of my problems, but it’s not about fixing everything in my life. Leaving something secure isn’t about throwing caution to the wind; it’s about loving yourself enough to give yourself the opportunity to recognize your dreams. There will always be voids; for me, it’s about figuring out which ones need to be filled. We just have to be willing to ask ourselves the right questions – which are sometimes the tough ones.

Life is not meant to be lived in one place. My roots began in Brooklyn, which became the chapter that taught me about the balance between city life and nature wandering. I came to NYC looking for anything that could tell me who I was. Then climbing found me, and I realized that, like happiness, discovering who you are isn’t something you can stumble into. I didn’t know it at the time, but anything is possible when you realize that there is no race for happiness.

If someone asked me what my message is today, it would be to stop waiting for the moment to come and instead, go out and create it. Don’t look for the “ultimate happiness”, but follow what brings you joy. My joy comes from challenging myself, my body, and my spirit through rock climbing. Climbing is my way of relating to space, people, and in turn, the rest of the world around me. To simply exist in this world is not enough, because we, as human beings, were meant to grow and evolve in new ways, every day. We are more adaptable than we think.

If you can dream it, you can do it. There is often a learning curve and you have to put in the time and the work, but I don’t look at things in my life anymore and think, “That’s impossible. It can’t be done”; I look at them and say, “I am going to do that”. With new dreams of big walls in future days to come, I still find my inspiration in those moments I step away from the rock and remember why I am there in the first place. You won’t spend a lifetime chasing dreams if you’re living for the things that make you feel alive. Remember your reasons for doing things and deliver your message with love.

Kathy Karlo is a rock climber based out of Brooklyn, NY. Between baking and loving on dogs, she’s desperately trying not to kill the last few living basil plants in her apartment.

Her love of rock and ice has been a life changing experience. She encourages anyone and everyone to try it! Her belief that climbing a rock is so much more than that…it’s a life journey that forever tests the limits of possibility.

Her future goals include big walls, aid soloing, and exploring the alpine world. Follow her adventures in 2015:

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