I am woman, watch me climb

The first day I walked into the Philadelphia Rock Gym for my Introduction to Climbing lesson, I walked in to a place where I knew no one, alone. I took a lesson, by myself, that is best shared with a partner. I was shy and nervous and scared. I looked at my feet because avoiding eye contact is my thing. I spoke quietly when my instructor asked questions, unsure of what I was doing, not fully understanding the things he was saying. I felt stupid. That stupid you feel the first time you do anything. That stupid you feel when you think this is awful and you will never get it and it will never makes sense and you will always feel this stupid so you are never doing this again.

Then the instructor tied me to a rope and told me to climb the wall. It was the hardest climb I have ever seen in my life. The wall was a million feet high, the things (*rocks*) I was to use to get up there were the smallest things I had ever seen, and the only assistance I had to get me from the bottom to the top was ME. My feet. My hands. My eyes.

Now, I had been introduced to myself some time back, at the very least I would consider us friends. I knew myself better than she did. And this friend that I knew so very well was about to fail miserably. There was no way she was strong enough or brave enough or courageous enough or smart enough to find her way to the top of that climb. Ten minutes later, she was reaching that last hold with her fingers and turning to stare down at the ground merely 35 feet beneath her. She did it. I did it. I had no idea.

That first time up was scary. Not because I was climbing ever farther from the solid earth I had grown to love so dearly but because tied to that rope, climbing ever farther from the person holding my life in his hands, I was forced to put absolute trust in one thing: ME. At that time in my life, I wasn’t sure if I was worth it or if I wouldn’t just be a horrible disappointment. I had to trust my eyes and feet and hands and it was hard (harder than my Organic Chemistry 2 final examination). The instructor did an amazing (terrifying) thing then; he handed me a blindfold. I had been climbing for a total of 70 minutes of my life and now I was supposed to do it blindfolded?

Do you know what happens when you remove your brains’ ability to make judgements? It’s like trial by fire, only it is trust by fire. Without judgments about the shapes, texture, and sizes of the hand and footholds and my ability to use them properly, I had only to feel with my fingers and toes, choose to trust, and move forward. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you aren’t telling yourself why you can’t accomplish it before you even try.

That was over 4 years ago.

Before I walked into that gym I doubted my strength, my courage, my beauty. Climbing has taught me about being a woman. A strong, powerful, sexy, beautiful woman.

Because I am one damn sexy climber


For a while, I helped run a women’s climbing program at that gym. When I was first asked to step in and help out I thought that I was too new and didn’t have expertise to offer to new women coming in to try out our sport. After the first few weeks it became something I felt really passionate about as I saw more and more evidence that I was not the only woman who walked into that gym doubting strength, courage, and beauty.

During a child’s birthday party one Saturday morning a mother and her sister decided to put on harnesses and climb with the group of women standing around gabbing. Sandyah was very quiet and soft-spoken and as she put on her harness began the self-depracating jokes about her size and her weight and how she, of course, would barely make it off the ground. But I tied her in anyway and said, “Just keep moving your feet and your hands up.” After she reached the top and came back down she was grinning from ear to ear, tears were filling her eyes, and she said astonishedly, “I had no idea that I could do that.” I smiled and we hugged. She never knew that I had uttered the same exact words to myself two years before. Initially, I thought that this was great and obviously she would love climbing and join the gym and I would see her all the time but that didn’t happen. What I learned to hope for instead, for Sandyah and all women who find their “Aha! moment” is that no matter what she does in her life or struggles she encounters or happinesses she receives, I hope she always remembers that she did that thing that time that she had no reason to believe she ever could do and knows that she is stronger than she ever dreamed she could be.

What it means to me to be a woman who climbs is that I am a woman who knows what I am strong enough to accomplish: anything.

Sometimes the only way there is up

I wanted to write this post because Friday:Climbing and also because I will never be able to thank enough the sport of climbing or the people with whom I climb for what it has given me and I can only ever try to share my love with anyone and everyone who will listen and/or read.

And also, also I have a BBF (best blog friend), or only blog friend, in the Philippines that I call Addie. It is exciting that I have a regular reader but more importantly, this blog of mine…this bit of fluff and nonsense has touched her in such a way that she, herself, will be venturing into a climbing gym near her home in the *possibly* near future to try this thing that I love so much. I dearly wish that I could go with her and that we could experience her first time together and possibly calm her fears or explain whatever I can so she doesn’t find herself exhausted and frustrated with the exercise. But I can’t. And maybe that’s a good thing because her experience will be all her own. All I can do instead is share my personal experience, fears, excitement, and pride…and wait to hear what she thinks when she gets back. Climb on, Addie!

About Anonymous Burn

I'm just a girl who has a blog. But I'm kinda groovy, too.

11 thoughts on “I am woman, watch me climb

  1. addielicious says:

    While reading the first part, I was imagining you as myself – feeling rather stupid as a first-timer. I was thinking to myself it’s probably what I would feel when I get to bring myself to the climbing center. Is the bilayer gonna be intimidating? Should I push through with the plan or ditch it?

    Then I got to the part where you wrote about climbing having taught you how to be a woman, a sexy powerful one and again I thought to myself, “Hey, I wanna be that kind of woman, too”. I wanna be like YOU.

    Aaaand finally I got to the latter part and I’m like, oh my god. My eyes welled up thinking “she’s dedicating this post to me.” Very sweet, Anonymous Burn (I wanna call you by your first name, always wanted to, I think I know your first name but I don’t know whether you’d like that mentioned here.)

    I wanna do it as soon as I can – I initially planned to do it this month but with December being a holiday season I don’t think I’d make time. I’m signing up in two weeks, though. Then start next month. January, please come soonest!

    And I will write about it, I’m so excited. I will make myself and you, beautiful woman!, proud! 😀

    • I’m very glad you don’t mind. After I wrote it I thought “is this weird?” Not that a positive answer to that question has ever stopped me from anything before but I considered it. Hahahah!

      I have this feeling inside of me, that you absolutely have the ability to be that kind of woman.

  2. […] honor and feeling of pure happiness and sameness when someone calls you her best (blog) friend. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  3. Tom Baker says:

    I came here from Addie’s blog. I wanted to see her BBF! I enjoyed my stay and want to let you know that my guest blogger this month is from the Philly area. Willow Grove I think. Come by and check out his post.

    • Fantastic! Thanks for stopping by. I would have baked if I’d’ve known you were coming. Next time…I just contacted you for more details on the meme which is next weekend!! I’m late to everything these days. It’s the dogs I tell you. Can’t get out of the house with them in tow. Look forward to reading more of you.

  4. brittany220 says:

    Wow awesome and inspiring post! I’m glad to have found your site through Addie. I had a “aha” moment myself this week after I delivered one of the most passionate speeches I’ve ever given and stood up for what I believed in in the face of opposition. That moment really told me I could do anything, and that I am a strong woman. I’m glad that climbing has brought you that realization as well.

    • That’s awesome to hear. It’s funny to me because I’ve always at least acted like I could do anything I wanted with enough pluck and courage. But it wasn’t really until I had my own moment that I realized how strongly I doubted myself. Thanks for reading my post. Kudos to you, Strong Woman! Let’s hear you roar!

  5. wonderful and empowering 🙂 keep it up! 🙂

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