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What I'm reading: Urban Climber and Touch the Top of the World

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
4 min read

The weather has sucked rocks, so I’ve been spending most of my time working, in the gym and reading. I can only write so much about projecting routes in the gym, and seriously, you’d all unsubscribe if I started talking about work, so how about I devote a little time to what I’m reading at the moment.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Urban Climber magazine. The cat’s also out of the bag that now I’m helping them out on occasion with editing, which is pretty much one of the highlights of my work life. UC’s 2008 Gear Guide featured a part of my climbing wish list… and I gotta say, I have fantastic taste in gear. I’m still not 100% on their schedule so I’m only getting to help with pieces of the magazine at this point, but I look forward to becoming more involved with the mag.

As an aside — hey, Joe — how are these for the next “[fill in the blank] reads Urban Climber Magazine” ad? Keira reads Urban Climber… do you?

Sorry — I couldn’t pick just one, so here’s another.

Miss Keira Grace, by the way, did her first boulder problem this week on the red slab at the gym. Yay, Keira Grace! Her mom, Amy, is coming with us to Smith next week for her first Smith trip ever. Thanks, Keira, for letting us borrow your ropegun momma for a long weekend!

Back to UC… in addition to the Gear Guide, the Apr/May 08 issue had some really good nuggets. Nuggets like:

“I climb to learn. There is something great about knowing that you have a long way to go before you will fully understand something.”

“Much of today’s climbing culture is centered on youth, strength, and adventure. Climbing is all these things and more. The spiritual benefits, the long-term gains to quality of life that flow from clarity of mind, certainty of purpose, and unwavering discipline are not often featured in climbing media.”

That’s from Kevin Jorgeson, interview by Andy Mann. I’m impulsive by nature… I’m quick to assess my surroundings and then fast to make decisions about the next course of action. Climbing has in some ways encouraged those tendencies… I trust myself more now than I used to which makes it easier to act based on those quick decisions; I am getting better (slowly) at accurately assessing risks instead of operating based entirely on fear. But, it’s a nice context to think about the “long way to go” aspect of climbing. I’ve got a long way to go, and definitely need to do a better job of thinking about that “long way” when making my impulsive decisions.

I also just finished “Touch the Top of the World” by Erik Weihenmayer. I know, I know, I’m behind the times on this one… the book came out a few years ago. I don’t get a lot of free time for reading, though, so I have some catching up to do. While I am not a mountaineer — bad knees — and my climbing is restricted to rocks not summits, I adore mountaineering books and living vicariously through authors who have what it takes to climb real mountains. Erik Weihenmayer is a climber. His story is inspiring and captivating and spans the world with adventures involving classic climbing and mountaineering destinations that the rest of us only ever read about. My favorite part of the book is how well he captures the partnership aspect of climbing… I know that “normal people” (aka, non-climbers) have friends, but I just don’t know if climbing partnership has any analogy among “normal people friendships.” I giggled to myself during the parts of the book where the personalities of Erik’s climbing partners emerge and you get to know them like they were part of your own climbing circle. Positive pessimism… “It sure is cold, but at least it’s windy!” “The ground sure is hard, but at least there’s a hole in my sleeping bag!” Brilliant and hysterical. It made me think of the conversation that starts at some point during the early morning of each climbing day with my own climbing partners…

Question: “What do you feel like climbing today?”
Answer #1: “I don’t know, maybe something tall, or something short.”
Answer #2: “Maybe we could clip some bolts, or maybe place some gear.”

It’s not positive pessimism, but we’ll have to come up with a snappy name for our pre-climb repartee.

Anyway, like all climbing partnerships, it’s clear that Erik’s partners bring something to his efforts; and, he returns the favor by bring something to theirs.

I dog-eared a bunch of pages in the book, but I guess I’ll end on this nugget…

“There are moments in our lives when we can move forward in small increments, increasing the challenge bit by bit, but there are other times when security is merely an illusion, when we must summon our courage, gather up our past skill, and proceed by the power of sheer faith.”

Stuff to Read

Sara Lingafelter

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