What is Climbing to Me?

Thank you for taking the time to read this; I’m just a guy who climbs rocks, so this will be an honest heart Yorkshire page of thoughts, let’s jump in and see what happens.

Starting My Climbing Journey

So, the big question I wanted to answer is, what is climbing to me? My climbing journey started when I was 11 years old. I’d just moved to Yorkshire from Cumbria, and my stepdad took me to “The Leeds Wall,” now reincarnated as the Big Depot. I loved it; it was hard but challenging. There was a weird satisfaction in the slight fear of being high on a thin rope, regardless of how strong it was. I visited Leeds Wall regularly and got to the stage where I had my own harness and felt like a boss.

My stepdad, the avid climber he was, took me on regular trips to Brimham, where we top roped many a route on Cubic Block. The feeling of exposure and beauty was amazing, bringing the feeling of being scared and uncertain to a different level.

Turning Passion into a Job

Once I grew up and realised bills were a thing, I needed a job, so while at college, I applied to work at Vertical Chill in Xscape; sadly, it’s now closed down; however, at the time, it was a small roped wall, themed on Monument valley in Utah. The routes were aimed at a fast flow of customers to try climbing out and have half an hour of fun, but I felt amazing; I was a gangly teenager who worked at a climbing wall while all of his mates had mundane jobs or no jobs, I was “cool” with this I met a group of mates who introduced me to the world of trad climbing and experiencing rock on a whole new level. “This is intense,” I thought; you climb up, place your protection as you go up, and just hope that tiny bit of metal stops you falling to your doom, but with practice, I got pretty good at it; the gear stayed in, the routes were safe, but offered a new kind of thrill, a new fun. It was great. Confidence grew, and trust in equipment grew; I remember around this time, the 5.10 Anasazi was the go to shoe, so naturally, I crammed my feet into pair after pair of them, downsizing to the point I was relieved to take them off.

Training and Challenges

The squad discovered a boulder specific gym in Leeds, and we frequented it, trying to learn how to get stronger as a way of getting up the routes. Tight shoes and big muscles will make everything doable, we thought. We trained and trained, and my bedroom became a pit of fingerboards, artificial cracks, bacha ladders, and a mattress as a pad somewhere in the mix.

A Turning Point

I felt unstoppable until I was stopped. I climbed regularly around the UK and occasionally visited other countries. Stomping around the peaks, hitting classic routes at Stanage, Froggart, and Curbar before playing in Ilkley Quarry and Almscliffe, I climbed every day I could. But one day, my luck ran out. Overconfidence and complacency led to a 30-foot fall, causing me to fracture two vertebrae. While I continued to climb, I didn’t feel anywhere as comfortable on ropes, so I prioritised my bouldering.

Riding Out the Storm

Fast forward to around 2017, I’d had a pretty rough few years. Life was chaos, and things weren’t going the way I wanted or imagined. I applied for a job at every wall in Leeds and surrounding areas. Alas, City Bloc was looking for a Kids club instructor; this was me; this was what I’d done before; I could do this. So I started my new job, teaching young ones everything I knew. Which wasn’t much, I knew how to climb and knew I could climb, but I didn’t necessarily understand climbing.

A New Chapter

Things got worse. Although City Bloc was great, it was only part-time, and my other job and circumstances pushed me into a whirlwind of challenges. Things got really bad, and I tried to stop them the only way I knew how. Looking back, I realise this wouldn’t have resolved anything, although it did help me change my perspective. I’d spent years looking out for those around me and supporting the people closest to me, but unfortunately, I’d always done that at the cost of my happiness and pleasure.

After years of improving myself and getting myself mentally healthy, I realised something, a constant. Climbing. Climbing was one thing that always brought me joy, brought me out into nature and helped me feel. My outlook on climbing also changed as I learnt more about the movement and the technical element of climbing; working with Ben at City Bloc and the style of setting helped me understand that there is joy in not only the nature but the movement, a move can be easy but enjoyable, pulling hard isn’t the only way to enjoy the sport, training depleted, I stopped training to climb, and train by climbing.

Return to the Rocks

On the 28th April, after a long time working towards my RCI (Rock Climbing Instructor Award) and waiting for decent weather we finally took our first outdoor session. And what better place to start than Brimham, home, somewhere I know well. England being England, I spent all week watching the weather reports, rain, rain, dry, rain, rain, dry, forever changing, and inconsistent between the different forecasters. It got to the day before, and we posted the warning…… “tomorrow’s session is probably not going to be a climbing heavy day, there’s a high chance of rain before, during and after, however…… if anyone wants to join for a tour of the crag and a wet walk, with potential for steep climbing to still be dry, I’m happy to head up there.” Everyone was psyched. The British weather had lost, people’s desire to be in nature had won, and we had a group of keen climbers happy to explore some damp rock. Warnings were issued, and conduct and etiquette lessons given; we pottered on to Joker’s Wall, and as always, it was dry. This is not a good place to be introduced to rock. Everything is hard, there’s no solid warm-ups, but with some resistance bands and creative thinking, we got people pulling on.

Psyche was high, We had a group of strong indoor climbers experiencing rock, many for the first time, and it was absolutely awesome, sends were low, morale was high, there was no dampening of spirits. It reminded me why I love the sport, that inquisitive trialling of movement and how to hold things that at first seem unholdable, searching for small feet on something that looks flat, and exploring jams and positions that seem unfathomable.

What a feeling.

What Climbing Really Means to Me

Climbing is more than exercise; it’s more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle that teaches and heals. It’s about movement, creativity, and connection with nature. It’s not just pulling hard; it’s about enjoyment, whether through easy moves or challenging new ones.

Climbing is joy.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I hope it inspires you to find your own path to joy, whatever that may be.

Dan x

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