It’s Still (Mostly) Not a Climbing Podcast. We took the summer off to stand fully in our truth, which means sometimes we have to sit in those uncomfortable feelings, too. But we’re back this September with ten new episodes that unpack a lot of this. We spent the last eight months on the road talking to climbers (like you) about what resilience looks like when shit hits the fan—and everything that happens after.
This mini-episode is brought to you by Deuter, Gnarly Nutrition, Allez Outdoors, and Dirtbag Climbers. Music by: “Ichill” by Kakurenbo, “Ice Pack”, “Pives and Flarinet”, and “Knock Knock” by Podington Bear. HUGE thank you to Chad Crouch, aka Podington Bear, for the support and to Peter Darmi for all of his help with this episode.
(KATHY KARLO): You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This is not a climbing podcast. Well, sorta. This is a funny, sad and somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability and talking openly about our pain. This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Here’s the show.
– Hey. We are two weeks away from season two, which comes out on September first. New episodes will air on the first of each month, so be sure to subscribe or follow us on Instagram at “inheadlights” (it’s like “deer in headlights”, without the deer.)
Ever have one of those summers where everything goes pear-shaped? That word can accurately describe the past eight months of my life. So, I took the summer off to figure some stuff out—and by “figure out”, I mean: dig really deep. I bought a cargo van, stopped returning ninety percent of my text messages (sorry, guys), holed up, spiraled out, ran away to Spain for a month, cried alone in parking lots, stopped climbing, lost friendships, and eventually had to claw my way up out of the dark. It was a summer. At some point, I even stopped looking for those silver linings. And I knew that that wasn’t who I was, but it felt like I was standing in quicksand. You keep sinking deeper and deeper and deeper, and can’t really imagine that you’ll ever get out. Anyone who’s experienced depression can probably relate to this.
So yeah, life isn’t exactly a supernova of good vibes right now. And that’s ok. Life definitely has a funny way of pulling us in new directions when we least expect it, but even though sometimes life does kick the shit out of us—we still have the choice to move forward. So, that’s what I’m choosing. If this podcast has taught me anything at all, it’s that standing fully in our truth means sometimes we have to sit in those uncomfortable feelings, too. We’re back in September with ten new episodes that unpack a lot of this. We spent the last eight months on the road talking to climbers (like you) about what resilience looks like when shit hits the fan—and everything that happens after.
(MALE VOICE): Yeah, the whole thing was just kind of tough for me ‘cause I knew the sport was dangerous. But until that moment, I feel like, you know, that’s when it really hit home where I was kind of like, “Oh man. It does happen, you know, right in our own backyard.”
(FEMALE VOICE): We all talk about: “Well, how come there are not as many women out there?” I know why. Society puts different expectations on a woman versus a man. Society sets you back from moving forward and, unfortunately, from my experience, it’s mostly women setting women back. We don’t encourage each other as a man would encourage another man.
(MALE VOICE): I had had my leg amputated in 2005 and, you know, spent a couple of years just seeing what this new life was going to be like and trying to figure out where these limits are after I’ve lost my leg. And actually, within that month, I sent two more 5.13s—another 13a and then a 13b.
(MALE VOICE): When I first got into climbing, it became such a part of my life so quickly, I was so completely engrossed. Days at the crag and afternoon/evenings at the bar and smoking a ton of bud at the campsite. And then, a few years ago when I decided that I was drinking a little bit too much and I had to get it together, I didn’t know where I would fit in climbing culture. And it took me away for about two or three years until I was able to get it together and I finally figured out why I really got into climbing in the first place—and that was to connect with god and nature or the universe or whatever you wanted to call it, and really face my fears up there and come out on the other side of them and not have those hangups anymore.
(FEMALE VOICE): I have recently lost the ability to lead hard routes. I was like, “What the fuck am I gonna do?” Climbing is not a hobby. It’s my career—I’m a guide! I’m gonna miss that version of myself that was a courageous risk taker and a badass. I don’t wanna be that woman telling stories about what she used to do. Fuck. Welcome to the next chapter.
(MALE VOICE): It always seemed like people were busy or people had their own ambitions and there wasn’t really time. I felt like damaged goods. And it just felt like everyone was in a constant state of going after their own goals and their own ambitions, and these are people that I’d climbed with before but they’d all moved on. And I just didn’t feel accepted anymore.
(FEMALE VOICE): The afternoon of my thirty-second birthday, I found out my dad died from leukemia. Some people think that would be the worst birthday ever—except that morning, my dad and I exchanged texts and I told him I was going climbing. And he told me to have a great day and I said, “I love you.” Because my dad’s the one who introduced me to the outdoors and he always told me to do what makes me happy, and climbing is what makes me happy.
(FEMALE VOICE): It was a super scary project for me: at least twenty hours of climbing. And when I finally got my shit together and felt ready, my partner went to flake the rope and a condom fell out of his pocket. I pretended not to see it and I felt fearful again. He was my climbing partner and I trusted him, and I don’t know what he expected.
(MALE VOICE): It was such a surreal moment for me. I was like, “What is going on?” Like, everything was amazing and all of a sudden, there’s this huge wave coming at me and I have no idea how to deal with it. I have late stage five kidney disease which is the last stage. Like, the numbers are terrible. We can slow it down—barely—but you need dialysis now.
(FEMALE VOICE): I was doing ecstasy and cocaine in the summer of eighth grade going to ninth grade. I could have just stopped there and not taken the path. I could have just been a kid that was a little wild in high school and I didn’t need to continue doing it. But I was ashamed, I was upset, I was…I was in denial.
(FEMALE VOICE): As a mother of a climber, I have to say that it is kind of a little scary knowing that your child is up there doing something a little…dangerous. But at the end of the day, when she comes and talks to us about it and shares her experiences, it’s pretty amazing. And it just makes me more proud of her and actually, a little jealous that I’m not doing it myself. But, at the same time, it’s really gratifying knowing that I raised a strong, young woman.
(MALE VOICE): All of a sudden, climbing just didn’t make me as happy as it used to, which was terrifying because at the time, climbing was the single largest part of my life—and really, the single largest part of my identity. Climbing is really important to me, but I don’t want it to be the one thing that defines me. Since then, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. If I want to do other things, I do other things. Invariably, climbing will be there when I’m ready for it again.
(FEMALE VOICE): Ok, Kathy I’ve never used this voice memo thing before. So, after having recorded a few clips for you and having to do it again and again and delete them, I just wanna say: why did you never tell me that my voice sounds utterly ridiculous? And thanks a lot, because now I have one more thing to be self-conscious about in my life. Bye!
(MALE VOICE): We read the American Alpine Club publication “Accidents in North America and Mountaineering” and shake our heads at the boneheaded mistakes that got those poor schmucks killed. How frigging stupid could they have been not to see that small oversight, that seemingly trivial mistake, that landed them in a body bag? Jesus. And we tell ourselves, “Oh, I’d never do something as dumb as that.”—whatever that was that got that person killed. But telling ourselves that is a fairytale. If you climb long enough, you’ll do something equally dumb and potentially fatal. If you’re lucky enough to survive and smart enough to actually learn from your mistake, you hopefully won’t make that particular one again. But don’t worry. There are plenty of other ones you can and probably will make. I can think of a couple from my own experience that I just barely squeaked by on by the grace of whoever’s flapping around up there.
And, of course, there’s always the “X factor”: the things we can’t control. Rockfall, weather, bad belaying, and just plain old bad luck. We’re playing a dangerous game—make no mistake about it. Bottom line is: don’t get complacent. Gravity never sleeps—and it never, ever makes a mistake. It leaves that up to us. But you stand a better chance of reaching old age if you keep two very simple, straightforward rules in mind every time you go climbing. Rule number one: don’t fuck up and die. Rule number two: don’t take your partner with you. Everything else is details.
(MALE VOICE): I had a buddy of mine pass away. Kinda, you know, looked up to him in climbing and knew his whole story: he was a professional climber. You know, it hit me pretty hard. Didn’t really climb a little bit after that, after he passed, just…you know, it was like something was missing there. But you also learn from it, you know, keep moving forward, every day. Work harder at the things that you love—it was kind of some of the things I had learned from him when we talked about climbing. I mean, he did some really hard stuff but (laughs) maybe one day, I could get to that level.
(MALE VOICE): You know, the moral of the story is it’s not always over. It’s not always hopeless. You can recover, you can do great things.
(KK): Even though I still have no idea what I’m doing—things are happening. And if you’d like to help out and support this podcast, please check out patreon.com (that’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N) where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 per episode. It really helps keep this podcast going, and I’m so grateful for all of your help. Special shout out to Cameron MacAlpine because he makes this thing sound good.
– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. A huge thank you to Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort. And a big thank you to Gnarly Nutrition for supporting this podcast and the messages that we share. Gnarly Nutrition supports a community of vulnerability and equality—and tastes like a milkshake, without all the crap. A big shout out to Allez Outdoor for supporting the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. And thanks to Têra Kaia, made by women, for women. Go ahead and throw out your old sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.
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