From Barbies to Flappers (the climbing kind)

I was never a particularly outdoorsy child. I’d play outside occasionally, usually pretending I was a Pokemon trainer or lady knight (later a pirate). I was always willing to sit in the dirt and play with my barbies or build faerie houses out of moss, acorns and small twigs but not always thrilled at the idea of sports, or any sort of athletic activity. I tried horseback riding, karate, gymnastics, dance and even a few brief dreams of basketball or badminton. Not interested. Not only was I not a “tomboy”, I was also a very cautious child. I remember crying hysterically when my Dad tried to surprise me by taking me to a roller skating rink. I enjoyed doing things my way and often with a large amount of caution.

I don’t know how I got so into this crazy, wonderful thing called climbing.

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I’ve come a decently long ways since childhood. Falling off boulders at Horse Pens 40, photo: Ryan Snyder

I was 19 and only a few months away from moving back to Atlanta to live with one of my best friends from childhood. My mom, her boyfriend, and a friend of their’s went to Earth Treks Rockville and invited me to tag along. I was nervous, excited, had horrible footwork, and didn’t have the slightest idea what I was doing (still don’t) but every time I pushed myself a little further or tried something a little harder I thought I was so insanely cool. My mom immediately signed us up for belay lessons and it became an almost weekly activity followed by some tasty pizza, what more could you want.

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My first outdoor climbing trip.

It wasn’t until well after I had moved to Atlanta that I climbed outside for the first time. My mom had bought me a membership at Stone Summit for christmas and sent me an email invite to join Meet Up. Almost a month later I had kidnapped a friend of mine and forced her to drive up to North Georgia to meet up with five people I barely knew and a guy I had met the day before. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Climbing has introduced me to that life. A life of saying yes and going for the things I want. I’m still scared of almost everything but that fear now has a limit, after a certain point it doesn’t matter anymore and I’ll either go for it or decide whatever “it” is isn’t worth it. I can’t thank climbing enough for that.

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Working out the moves on my first v4, Screaming Church Girls, Rocktown. Photo: Evan Raines

The lessons I’ve learned inspired me to reapply to a college that had already rejected me, Georgia State (I go there now), ask out the guy I was super hardcore crushing on (he said no originally, but I get to call him my boyfriend now), apply to be a part of Sisu Girls as a community ambassador and to Fayettechill as a field rep. I feel more involved in my life; I have met some seriously incredible people and had some pretty amazing experiences and for that I am thankful.

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Old coworkers of mine and a gorgeous view at Cimmaroncito, Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico

I am not over my fears. I still haven’t lead anything above a 5.9 outside, I can only occasionally take a lead fall inside, and I prefer my boulders to be roughly the same height as I am. Upon several occasions I’ve cried for reasons that in retrospect might not be as dangerous as my panicked brain decided they were, but no matter what, that passion for climbing still gets me there. The fear is still there, but it’s the awe inspiring nature of climbing that motivates me to ignore it until I can’t take it. I’m lucky to have many inspiring people as climbing partners, most of whom climb harder than me, but all have had a hand in getting me to where I am today. I don’t know who I would be had I not walked determinedly into the world of climbing. Maybe I would’ve actually been able to finish National Novel Writing Month and not just talk about it the week before, stress out over writing and decide to go climbing instead. That life didn’t happen though. As one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed, explains- “It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

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Road to Cimmaroncito, Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico.

-Alma

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