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My climbing trip "carry on" list

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
3 min read

Recently, I ran a little new year’s “help me come up with new blog post” ideas contest. Among a bunch of great submissions was this one from Darren, in Calgary, Alberta:

“What would be your top 3 things to have an awesome climbing trip? Where would you go?”

Now, to be fair, Darren and I had recently chatted about his plans for a trip to Red Rock… and then chatted during his trip to Red Rock… so I think he kinda knew I may be pining for a climbing trip. Said trip starts tomorrow, so this was a really unique opportunity to reflect, pre-trip, on what I can do to make the most of every day I get out on the road.

I’m going to trust that you don’t want to hear that I need shoes, bouldering pad and a spotter… or shoes, harness, and a rope (assuming partner has draws and/or gear)… and instead, talk about the three — let’s call them — luxury items I can’t go on a climbing trip without.


The first thing would be Hana, my yellow lab, except that she hates climbing trips. She adores camping, and loves road tripping, but she doesn’t like the whole hot, dirty, uncomfortable climbing part — it’s scary, and she doesn’t dig shirtless men wearing skirts of metal. So, while I wish she could be the one thing I’d need for a happy climbing trip, she gets to stay home.

I just don’t feel right on a trip without music, my camera, and a notebook.

Part of tripping for me is listening to music… in the car, and sometimes during the approach or while warming up (especially, when I do trips with big groups). I like the associations that develop over time… when I hear certain songs now, I think about driving through the Virgin River Gorge; or about warming up at Tieton. Not only does music relax me, and put me in a good frame of mind for climbing — I like that now I have a long list of climbing memories triggered by listening to my favorite music.

The camera thing is kind of obvious… I just love capturing scenes from my trips, and having them to pour over once I get home. I especially love taking pictures of my friends, being my friends. They don’t have to be climbing — they’re just climbers, and they’re beautiful and funny and strange and strong, and that comes through in “lifestyle” shots. I love taking landscapes and then having reminders around my house and office of all of my adventures. I’m still getting acquainted with actual climbing photography… it’s harder than it seems. But I’m sticking with it.

Finally, I bring a notebook. I used to have one that I took on all my trips, but in my move it’s gone missing, so I’m going to be starting a new one for my upcoming trip. I like keeping little notes on my climbing days, and then, usually after a few days, when I’m really in the rhythm of being away from home and work, I like to just sit down and reflect. Putting pen to paper is different than typing away at a keyboard. I have a lot of epiphanies while climbing… it’s a time that I learn a lot about myself. Having a place to sit and process and write things down is part of what makes my trips so transformative and adventure-filled for me.

Now, the last part of the question. If I could go anywhere, it’s a pretty close tie between Chamonix, and Thailand. They’re so different that I hope you’ll forgive me the equivocation. I haven’t met a climbing area that I haven’t liked, yet, so there’s nowhere I’ve been that I wouldn’t go back to.

Weather that’s within tolerance; rocks to climb; a partner who’s fun and competent and compatible with me on the rock, around the campfire, and on the road; my gear; and those three “vanity items,” and I’m happy just about anywhere.

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.