Why I climb

Photo credit - Daniel Marriott

Climbing, whether it’s in a gym, out in the mountains, or even structures in the urban playground, has a way of bringing the best out in people. For many who start climbing it starts out as a bit of fun every week or so, then, the bug bites and you’re hooked. First it was adding an extra visit to the centre per week, then it was buying the first pair of shoes; this is about the point where I realised, I was here for the long haul.

I see climbing to be almost like gravity; it has this attraction and drawing power that I have never really experienced with any other activity. I spent most of my life in scouting and so the outdoors was nothing new, but it wasn’t ‘til I was in my mid-twenties that I was introduced to climbing; I, like many I know, was instantly in love. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t going through the best of times, struggling with my mental health and not really going anywhere, but when I first stepped onto the wall, it’s almost like I stepped away from part of myself. Just like turning down the volume on radio static, I could think and focus more, I was problem solving and learning how to use my body more efficiently.

I was drinking less and eating healthier.

Six years in and I’m still just as in love with climbing as I was the first day I walked into a climbing centre. Since then I’ve made lifelong friends, gotten into the best shape I’ve ever been in, found my wife and soulmate and learned more about managing my mental health and well-being. Long story short, I don’t know where I would be if I had never tried.

I find it amazing how a pastime can be so paradoxical that in its purest form can mean absolutely nothing but also everything absolutely. To the inexperienced it’s just climbing; messing about on rocks and being really loud. To those who were captured by its pull, it’s everything. It’s hooking your fingertips over door frames and weighting them with every chance you get, it’s the excited re-enactment of moves on a sick problem… Whilst in the street, it’s definitely the power screaming and the yells of both victory and frustration.

With studies showing that rock climbing as well as the outdoors are having positive impacts on mental well-being, it’s my hope that more people get involved and try what we all hold so dearly. Through promotion of our local climbing centres and word of mouth, we can bring the attraction of climbing to people who wouldn’t normally consider it as an option when times are at their toughest. Through a small group of friends who sadly have moved on from climbing, I found something that helped pull me out of one of the hardest times in my life, helped me take more notice of myself. I love climbing because it made me love myself.

By Gerard Savage-West

Twitter: twitter.com/climbcentric

Instagram: @climbcentric

About the author

Gerard Savage-West
Climber and advocate for mental health, living with ranged mental illnesses. Paraclimbing champion in mental health cat.
Twitter: twitter.com/climbcentric

Instagram: @climbcentric