Dennis Jones rock climbing

Confessions of a Future Born Again Rock Climber

I was planning on going out with the Jeep club today for the annual chili run and Christmas tree cutting. Then I about passed out on my kitchen floor. Decided bed is a preferable option. So here is a post from my friend, Tristan. He is a wold-traveler, outdoor enthusiast to the extreme, and one of my favorite online authors. Big thanks to him for composing a post for me today:

Confessions of a Future Born Again Rock Climber

Up until a year and a half ago, I was a very avid rock climber. I’d done a thousand climbs and hundreds of first ascents, and I would rather have been on the rock than anywhere else. Then things started to go downhill. At the time, I had recently arrived in a new city and didn’t have reliable climbing partners. I was working hard and had less time to devote to climbing, and I grew weaker as a result. I was having knee problems that called for extended periods of time off. I couldn’t find projects that inspired me. I was bored, and I realized that it was time for a major change. I stopped climbing, packed my bags, and left the country.

I’ve now been living, working, and traveling around the world for about 15 months. I have no climbing gear with me, and I haven’t been climbing. I plan to be out of the US for the foreseeable future, and I don’t see myself doing any climbing anytime soon. It’s sad but true to say that I don’t climb anymore.

Not climbing is strange. It’s been a huge part of my life since I first went to the climbing gym 18 years ago. I’m Tristan. I rock climb. I’m a rock climber. It’s who I am. Climbing has brought me the greatest joys and biggest challenges of my life.

I still watch climbing videos fairly often. They’re one of my sole remaining links back to the climbing world. As I sit and watch other people climb, I have flashbacks of years of climbing experiences that have become part of the permanent firmware of my brain. As I watch someone climb a desert crack, I can feel the grit of the sand in my mouth. As I see people take long falls, I’m weightless right along with them. Videos of runout trad routes bring back that heightened sense of awareness and concentration. These are not just memories; this is time travel, sending me back to exact times and places in my former life as a rock climber.

Though climbing is behind me for now, I haven’t quit climbing. My gear is safely in storage back in the States. I still hop on Mountain Project every once in a while. I see friends post climbing photos to Facebook and feel pangs of remembrance, envy, and longing. I look at the mountains, cliffs, and stone facades that I travel past and can’t help but trace out the possibilities.

Climbing has always been a near-religious experience for me. The mountains are holy and the rock sacred. But now, miles and months away from any climbing, my faith is somehow as strong as ever. I haven’t left the church—I simply worship in a new way. And luckily for us all, the mountains are always there to welcome home the prodigal son.

Tristan Higbee is a longtime rock climber and lover of the mountains in general. He is the author of the book 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks.

Dennis climbing Rock Canyon, UT
Dennis climbing Rock Canyon, UT
Me bouldering on the millennium Falcon near Grand Junction.
Me bouldering on the millennium Falcon near Grand Junction.