1. My unique fashion sense has finally been accepted
For much of my life, I took flack for my fashion. The cargo pants, the bell-bottoms, the headbands, the willful adherence to the styles of the seventies. Living in Brooklyn through the advent of the skinny jean and hanging out with punk rockers whose main fashion inspiration was Weimar Germany did not help.
Growing muscles from climbing is like watching your own body become a diagram of a human body. It’s like using your experience to sculpt yourself out of clay, or the soft, doughy substance your body was made of before you terrorized it into wired-up sinew.
This is just a theory, but I believe that the muscle tissue built from climbing is a specific kind of muscle tissue. It’s twitchy. It wants to do things. It was while climbing that I first heard the words, “muscle memory.” But the muscles climbing gave me don’t just have memory. They have imagination.
4. Finally finding a semi-legit escape from my overprotective Jewish parents
I am lucky to come from a close, loving family. My family is also Jewish, and we are from New York. Despite not being religious, we fulfill many of our stereotypes—we are short, loud, and bespectacled. Too much food is happening most of the time. But most of all, we are worried. Very, very worried, about everything, all the time.
Despite the fact that I am now well into my thirties, my parents—like many Jewish parents—worry whenever we are not in constant contact. But they seem to accept that rock climbing occurs “in the woods,” and that there is “no reception” in these places. (As coverage has increased steadily in Joshua Tree and Yosemite over the last few years, I have continued to insist to my parents that all public lands are reception-free zones.)
After a few buzzkilling incidents involving frantic phone calls to park officials and private individuals alike, my parents have been trained NOT to contact any federal, state, or local law enforcement or search-and-rescue agencies unless these agencies have contacted them first. I have climbing to thank for the modicum of age-appropriate privacy and freedom I now enjoy.
5. The sights, the sounds, the smells
I like the way the world looks from up on high, and I like the smell of granite. I like watching ravens ride thermals, and I like the whoosh of their wings.
I like the sound the gear makes. I like the way the rack sounds like wind chimes when it swings on the harness, and I like the clunk of it settling into the back of the car. I like the clink of the cams and the clatter of the nuts, the click of the carabiners when they snap onto slings and bolts. I like the whistle of the rope when it’s pulled, and the sound it makes snaking into its pile. I like the hiss and pop of a well-earned beer, and the sound of my own breath as I earn it.
There is no truer way to be friends with someone than holding their life in your hands. No better way to be honest than to tell someone you are afraid, to let them see that you are afraid, and be with you in that moment, and yet helpless to help you. I can think of no better thing to share than the summit, the sunset, or both at once.
By Emily Weinstein