Looking at Sarah and I, you would never guess that we were climbers. When I think of rock climbers, I typically think of a tall, thin, muscular person who smells like they haven’t worn deodorant in a month and eats nothing but kale. That might be a bit dramatic, but really though, all the best climbers I know have been that way. Oh, and their forearms are the size of my thighs. Sarah on the other hand was a little bit bigger, stood around 5’7, and just by looking at her you wouldn’t think “she’s a kick-ass climber.” I, on the other hand, stand around 5’6 and my arm definition is about the same as a pillow, so nobody would ever think I have the upper body strength to actually climb. Sarah wore a large harness, and I wore a small. But size doesn’t matter in climbing.
Two days after her wedding, she and I decided to go try out her new climbing gear that she got as a wedding gift (guess who it was from, yup, me), so she and I, her husband, and our friend Kate headed out for the local crags in Post Falls, Idaho.
It was a warm day in August, mid afternoon by the time we got to the rock walls, and the sun had heated up the rocks just enough to make my chalk necessary. We set up our anchors, tossed over the ropes, and began to climb in no time.
The route that I was working on was probably a 5.8, but a difficult one at that. I am not the type of climber who focuses on the grade I climb because honestly, it varies from site to site and who cares as long as you’re having fun! So I tied in, checked that Sarah had me on the belay, and was off. The first half was relatively easy, plenty of places to put my hands and feet, but the second half was strange and difficult. There was a spot where the wall collided with an adjacent wall and created a weird crevasse/ overhang sort of spot on the left, and on the right the wall flattened out. I chose to go to the left because my puny fingers didn’t have the grip strength to crimp the tiny holds. The way I chose was cramped, tricky and it was a good thing I wore a helmet because I hit my head getting through it. Still, I squeezed through that space and made it up to the top finally. I gave Sarah the signal and she brought me down. Then it was her turn and up she went.
Knowing that she does intense workouts every day, eats healthier foods than me, and doesn’t have asthma like I do, I think is what made her climb that route much better than I did. Even though I was pulling less weight up the wall, she had more muscle to do it with. Even though she was lucky enough to have a well endowed chest (unlike me), it didn’t get in the way of her climbing because she had great footwork. She killed the route and then went on to try the harder one next to it. Her foot placement was spot on, her hips were to the wall, and all the workouts she had been doing over the last year had given her incredible muscles that made it easy for her to get up. She had given the route her all, and had smashed it to bits.
So, It doesn’t matter how big you are, anyone, any BODY, can climb. It comes down to practice, dedication, having fun, and giving it your all. It comes down to leaving it all on the wall, and not caring if you fit into the “perfect” or “ideal” climber image. It doesn’t matter if you can only make it up four feet or up four routes, all bodies can climb, and with enough time and practice, they can climb with ease.
– Nicole Eichsteadt –