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Climbers vs. Junkies... A lifestyle comparison.
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By Ryan Derrick
From Front Rangia
Apr 8, 2014
Between two fins near Credibility Gap

Yesterday: I am sitting in history class, and it just dawned on me; I need a fix. Itís all I can think about and there is no way I will be a normally functioning member of society until I get my fix. I need to get out of this windowless classroom, and go to one of my quiet places where I can indulge. I need to hide away from the world, and partake in a pleasure that few understand. I know that when Iím in the act, my productivity for all else ceases. This habit has caused countless breakups, job terminations, and cases of homelessness for those who chase the high. Most of society will view me as a bum, and a failure for putting this habit above all else, but I wonít stop. I donít care about the nay-sayers, I have a few close friends who share my affinity for it, and thatís all I need. The pain in my elbows is just my body telling me to stop, but Iíll ignore the pain for just one more taste of the immeasurable sensation I crave. I know itís dangerous, and people I know have died doing it; but Iím in too deep to ever stop now. Some of the old-timers quit cold-turkey when their kids were born, but only because their wives begged. My only question for them is: how did you have the time and money to find a wife while you were rock climbing?

Surprised? Thought I was talking about hard drugs? Nope. Climbing is a dirty, time-consuming, expensive, and dangerous sport; a sport that totally captivates those who do it; totally captivates me. It is addicting in such a way that many multi-talented young individuals completely stop being productive members of society, and live only to climb. School, jobs, and houses are sacrificed for karabiners, ropes and a sleeping pad in the back of a Subaru outback. People look at dirtbag climbers the same way they look at substance-ridden homeless people: as people who have wasted their potential. Climbers donít care, because just as most junkies would tell you there is no better feeling than a good shot of dope; climbers know there is no better feeling than the satisfaction of sending a hard route, the rush of being on the verge of falling, yet fighting to make one more move. I have found these experiences to be so great that everything else falls by the wayside in my pursuit of climbing.

Homework, class, holding down a job. I do the minimum on the first two out of necessity. Because failing out of school would have severe impacts on my climbing schedule. A job is simply too much to ask for; I cannot be committed to something twenty hours a week. What if my friends go climbing? I would have to miss shifts, like a drug abuser who gets high and forgets his responsibilities. It wouldnít be fair to an employer to subject them to this erratic schedule. Like a drug user on a budget. I eat ramen and shop goodwill to afford my fix. A junkie would stop paying his rent before he stopped his drug use; and if it came down to it, living in the back of my Tacoma really wouldnít be that bad. The mobility and money saved (climber benefits) far outweigh the comfort and ability to impress women (normal-person benefits).

Drugs kill people every year. Well, so does climbing. A friend of mine died in 2012, and another friend is in intensive care as I write this after a fall last week in Boulder. For any logical person, these personal tragedies would have served as a wake-up call, or at least sparked some thoughts about whether this is really the sport they should be participating in. Not me. Not climbers. These events serve only as reminders to be careful. To the outside world, this thought-process is maddeningly stupid. Something akin to the way a junkie refuses to see the signs of his life falling apart around him. Arrests, and friends-overdosing just happen; there is no thought of quitting.

It doesnít make sense. I admit it. I really should just do my homework and find a nice internship for the summer. I should call my girlfriend more and look at settling down. At 22, I should seek out a good career or a masterís degree and not indulge every whim to go hide at the bottom of a cliff face every possible weekend, accomplishing nothing. The only real benefits to climbing are that my handshake is absurdly strong, pull-ups are easy and I can tie really cool knots. Not exactly big resume builders. Itís hard to know what makes climbing so addicting, why climbers are some of the most devout followers of their sport out there, why we will put climbing ahead of everything else. Itís hard to put into words, but if you donít want to become a lonely, destitute, dirtbag living in the back of an old pickup; if you donít want to lose your job, girlfriend, and respect of your parents, then donít try it. Not even once. Sound familiar?


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By bearbreeder
Apr 8, 2014

brilliant

;)


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By Mark Ra
From Mid-Atlantic/CO
Apr 8, 2014
Poking around at Coopers

This should be in an issue of Mountain Gazette.

I'm still sad they stopped print distribution...


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By doligo
Apr 8, 2014
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style

Not even close. Try B.A.S.E. jumping or powder skiing.


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By Eric Engberg
Apr 8, 2014

doligo wrote:
Not even close. Try B.A.S.E. jumping or powder skiing.



Bingo. Or surfing - or any number of addictive life style anguished analysis writings that have been done for centuries. Cue Whymper and the Matterhorn


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By Keithb00ne
From Las Vegas, NV
Apr 8, 2014
Grand Teton

Hello, my name is Keith, I am a climber, and I don't have a problem.


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By Jared Moore
From Tahoma, CA
Apr 8, 2014
Cover

Well done, sir. I have thought about this before and can completely understand the feelings, especially in comparison with wanting to indulge in substances. You put it to words so well, though. Thanks!


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By Marta Reece
Administrator
From Las Cruces, NM
Apr 8, 2014
On Rabbit Ears

Keep writing, Ryan Derrick. If you start a blog, I will follow it, and recommend it to my friends. Thanks for posting.


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By Jared Moore
From Tahoma, CA
Apr 8, 2014
Cover

Marta Reece wrote:
Keep writing, Ryan Derrick. If you start a blog, I will follow it, and recommend it to my friends. Thanks for posting.


I do concur.


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By C. Archibald
Apr 8, 2014
On haystack in the Winds

Nice post, but it doesn't apply to me, man! I'm different. I can control it. I can quit any time I want! Honest!


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By SMR
Apr 8, 2014

Hmm, maybe you should finish your homework, graduate and go climb for a couple of years. You are only 22, even if you give in and go climb you can still have a job, house, wife, kids and become a contributing member of society.

It is really not an either/or proposition. I guess at 22, it might feel like that.


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By Keithb00ne
From Las Vegas, NV
Apr 8, 2014
Grand Teton

SMR wrote:
Hmm, maybe you should finish your homework, graduate and go climb for a couple of years. You are only 22, even if you give in and go climb you can still have a job, house, wife, kids and become a contributing member of society. It is really not an either/or proposition. I guess at 22, it might feel like that.


I disagree about the kids part. Job, house and wife, yes.


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By DanielRich
Apr 8, 2014

Keithb00ne wrote:
I disagree about the kids part. Job, house and wife, yes.

I disagree about your disagreement about the kids. :)

My kids who are 2 and 4 which is arguably one of that harder ages to climb with kids love to screw around on the bouldering wall. I hit the gym with the family before work and then the wife and kids head home to watch cartoons while I head to work. We will see as they get older it may get harder, but I have found the key to doing things with a family are finding ways to make it fun for everyone b/c if it is fun for everyone then it just happens without too much effort.

The 2 year old can't really do much climbing but he loves for me to take him over to the steep cave and lift him up to a jug so he can hang on and then giggle like crazy once he falls and hits the mat.


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By Ryan Watts
From Bishop, CA
Apr 8, 2014
Flatirons

I take it you've never been a junkie.


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By Dan Austin
From San Francisco, CA
Apr 8, 2014

I actually drive better after I've sent a few V3s. Loosens me up, y'know?


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By leon
Apr 8, 2014
Mug shot

Well, I climb responsibly!
And...If you are a fuck up you will be a fuck up in any areas in life. Be it climbing, drugs , work or kids. Have you heard of "professional students" who have gazillion degrees but work at Starbucks? Also, if you have to keep reminding yourself to call your girlfriend then get another girlfriend.


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By bmagee13
Apr 8, 2014

No kids yet but I am able to manage climbing, wife, dog, apartment, family (parents, siblings, and in-laws), and career. Of course I think about the dirtbag lifestyle but it is nice to have roots and stability somewhere. People think the grass is always greener on the other side until they are on the other side.


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By AST
Apr 8, 2014

I personally went from being a climbing addict for 10 years, to a drug addict (opiates) for 4, then (eventually) back to a climbing addict.

The two have at least as much in common as OP says.

When I finally quit opiates and got back into sports, it was climbing and road riding. Both are activities where one can easily lose their life or at least get very badly hurt.

Like a lot of former addicts, the thrill / rush / post activity high of exercise became the substitute for drugs.

The irony that I could experience an equal/better high while sitting safely on my couch and not risking a wreck / fall was not lost on me. I always felt the likelihood of losing everything to drugs was more or less equal to losing everything to an accident on my bike or on a cliff.

In fact, climbing put me in a body cast for 4 months once, and left me fairly disabled for almost a year total. Opiates never had such a detrimental effect.


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By leon
Apr 8, 2014
Mug shot

^^^^ ..and there is always gambling and loose women if nothing else thrills you!


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By Jeff McLeod
Apr 8, 2014
Jeff McLeod on The Scientist 5.11a

Sounds intimately familiar.

Funny thing is, I'm about to get my Master's and I've spent probably 2x more time climbing in the past few months than I've spent working on my thesis :0

And working hard for the past couple years on schoolwork and research still hasn't made me any more career-oriented. I just want to climb :) it truly is an addiction.


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By Hank Caylor
Administrator
From Golden, CO
Apr 8, 2014
Yoda

www.theonion.com/articles/im-just-a-free-spirit-who-is-entir>>>


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By RafalA
From Canmore, AB
Apr 9, 2014

The trick is to find a job that lets you climb, or a job that involves climbing. And if you live in a town of climbers, nobody will judge you for not having a 'career.' Solves all your problems. ;)


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By Thomas Carson
From Frederick, MD
Apr 9, 2014
on the Grand, 2012

Ryan Derrick wrote:
I really should just do my homework and find a nice internship for the summer.


This really struck a chord with me. As a junior engineering double major, I know I should have an internship for the summer, but no, I'm going back to the Tetons to work there for my third summer. No regrets though. None whatsoever.


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By Sam Keller
Apr 9, 2014
Finger cracking in Indian Creek!

As a dirtbag who has been living out of my backpack climbing off and on for the last 5 years (try hitching w a double rack of cams, harness, shoes, 60m of rope, and camping gear) I have a bit to add.

I took it that your post is satirical. But climbing has become my life. I have no girlfriend, no phone, no car, no house, nothing that isn't totally oriented to my climbing lifestyle.

It is the dream (minus the Sprinter van) that alot of people wish for, but it isn't an addiction. It is a skill set. Climbing makes me a more complete person. In this totally controlled and planned out society climbing helps me to feel fear, hopefully process it rationally, and separate it from objective or merely subjective risk. It has taken me to the ends of the world to extreme situations. It has helped me to develop a tolerance for discomfort, and most importantly it has taught me that through pushing myself to my limits I can go farther than I ever thought.

I was in your position when I was about to graduate. I took the climbing route. It has take. Me to 24 countries on 4 Continents. I learned a foreign language, spent years sleeping under the stars, am in excellent shape, and am on pace to climb 1000 pitches outdoor this year.

In addition I have developed it into a trade. I have worked rope access, worked as a wilderness instructor and taught rock climbing classes for high schoolers.

Doing what you love isn't necessarily an addiction, it's being truly human, embracing the infinite possibilities of the future, and letting the process develop you instead of trying to develop the process.


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By Chris Clarke
From La Paz, BO
Apr 9, 2014

I remember feeling like that at 22. The urge to climb everything, everywhere, all the time along with a dread of getting old. At just a few months shy of 50, it's nice to have a different relationship with the sport while still enjoying it in its various forms on a regular basis.


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By J Q
Apr 9, 2014
Me again!

The trick is to convince yourself that you are not an addict, that way you can continue using.

I remember my 30th b-day I told my dad the trick was to get addicted to something that was good for you.

I thought it was climbing.

It might be.

It also might not.



How many people have at least three tendon injuries right now?


See?

I love this addiction, but my knee is Fuc***, so I am drinking beer.

I wish I was climbing.


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