I Could Never Rock Climb? Really.

At this time of year several dozens of people wander in and out of our Bar Harbor outdoor store. They see the rock climbing videos and the climbing photo albums and most turn to their friends or family and say “I could never do that!”

I have to disagree. In fact, I think most people can rock climb. I often say if you can climb a step ladder you can climb. I have guided differently abled folks who were blind, deaf or even had paralyzing injuries. I have clients that range in age from four to eighty four. They all succeeded because they tried. And so it could be with all those who say they couldn’t do it. If that’s you, I challenge you to give it a try. As a climbing guide I like the challenge of turning a skeptic into a climber. Here are some of the ways that I accomplish this:

  • Climbing is an extension of hiking. I start teaching about technique while doing the approach so terms are already familiar when you start up the rock.
  • Start easy. I want you to say to me “Can I try something harder?” When that happens I know you are hooked. How cool is that!
  • Make it relative. Everyone can picture a baby on their hands and knees, pulling at the steps and railing as they learn to climb stairs. With time they stand upright and even become capable of ascending the stairs without using the railing. If you never climbed before you have to relearn how to do it. At first you may be like that baby discovering how to ascend the stairs but soon you too will be upright and confident.
  • It’s okay to be afraid. I like to tell people that “the secret is not to rid your stomach of butterflies but rather to make them fly in formation.” Anyone who isn’t afraid also isn’t in touch with reality.
  • Jump off. Understanding how the rope systems works really helps a virgin climber understand that nothing will happen to you if you slip. It’s amazing how much better people do after their first slip and the rope catches them.
  • Consider an Olympic caliber gymnast. They do the same maneuvers over and over until they becomes second nature. Climbing is the same, it’s okay to struggle and be awkward on climbs you haven’t done dozens of times. The best climbers in the world rehearse moves over and over.
  • My dad used to say “why don’t you just take a helicopter to the top?” Little did he know that I would work on a helicopter one day but more importantly, after I finally got him on the rock, he couldn’t wait to go back out and I never heard that question again.

And finally I like this quote by John Ciard – “Every game ever invented by mankind is a way of making things hard for the fun of it!

So get out and explore Maine. Whether you hike, run, bike, climb, paddle, surf, hunt or fish it’s about thinking you can.

Dr. Bob. Rocking it in his 80's.

Dr. Bob. Rocking it in his 80′s. You can too.

Jon Tierney

About Jon Tierney

Internationally licensed IFMGA Mountain Guide, owner of Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School and Alpenglow Adventure Sports Flight Paramedic, Lifeflight of Maine