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December 4, 2019

Andrew Bisharat writing for Outside Online: What ‘The New York Times’ Got Wrong About Climbing:

One of the more disparaging quotes from Pasternak is, “Keeping in mind the average American is significantly overweight, I would talk everyone I could out of rock climbing unless you are incredibly light, agile, fit and functional. There is a very small minority of this country that should be rock climbing.”

When I first read those lines in the original Times article, I had to stop reading. I couldn't believe they would have quoted such utterly backwards statements. It felt like a "fair and balanced / there's two sides to every story" angle, no matter what the truth might be. They've done great reporting on climbing in the past— why would they quote this?

Bisharat continues:

It’s also plain wrong. Climbing is one of the best sports in the world, precisely because it’s open to every age, gender, and ability. The scene at any gym or crag is one populated by people from three to 70-plus years old—women, men, nonbinary—all climbing with each other, all building trust, connection, and friendships.

Climbing may not give you a butt like Kim Kardashian, but it’s a path to making anyone as strong as an ape. No matter your ability, you will gain strength (and flexibility) through climbing that will (eventually) allow you to lever your body up an impossible-looking wall, which is more impressive than vanity beach muscles. Deadlifts may be the perfect exercise, but climbing is way more fun, filled with amazing people, and ripe with opportunity to travel.

I took my mother to a climbing gym for the first time last year, which I think she was interested in (partly) because her granddaughter was having fun doing it as well. When she came to visit us again this past week I asked her if there was anything specific she wanted to do, and the first words out of her mouth were "climbing". So of course, we went indoor climbing again. She's 71 now, and had as much fun as my 7 year old daughter.

If you are going to be chasing the elite level climbing routes, of course you're going to need strength and fitness. And there's fun to be had in those chases— but that's not the only fun to be had. I find myself on "easy" routes all the time because the movement feels great and it puts a smile on my face. And the confidence you build as you progress in your ability to climb more difficult routes feels amazing. People think it's adrenaline we're addicted to, and that couldn't be further from the truth. It's the personal achievement and the feeling you get when you finally make it to the top of something you've been working on for weeks.

Anyway, take an intro class and give it a try. It's a good time.