And Discovering Our Own Paths With Climbing
It started with climbing trees. The simple, free-spirited pursuit of a child who could not sit still. Eventually, trees did not cut it for the blond-haired bouncing boy and his parents no longer cared for the ever increasing heights of the trees he climbed. A safe and productive place for his passion of the vertical world was needed.
Enter the indoor climbing scene, a rather new phenomenon in the early 1990s in Canada. The energetic boy signed up for one of Calgary’s first youth climbing teams, first at the University of Calgary Climbing Wall and then at the Calgary Climbing Centre ( ccc). Shortly after, his three younger siblings (all equally keeping pace with their Energizer bunny brother) visited the gym. One after the other entered into the various youth programs that the gym offered, as their parents marvelled at their luck in finding a sport that all four of their children enjoyed. Little did they know the immense impact that the sport of climbing would have on their lives. Welcome to my family.
It was my brother, Chris, who was the first to experience the joy and freedom of climbing. Never one to follow the well-defined paths in life, Chris found his niche in the relatively unknown sport of rock climbing. Much to his chagrin, my sister Stacey joined the ccc youth team shortly after, while myself and my brother Mike tagged along to play in the back bouldering cave until we were old enough to join as well. We were all well suited to the sport; athletic, energetic, and eager to put our monkey bar skills to the test.
For the next decade, we all grew up within the chalky haze of the ccc. We grew as athletes, focusing on competition climbing, each claiming a National title at some point throughout our youth careers. We learned how to push our limits, deal with failure and injury, and how to focus and work hard to succeed. We grew as athletes, but we also grew as people. We became so immersed in the sport that our fellow climbers became our community, and the sport of climbing became our lifestyle and our culture.
Our parents, Andy and Laurie, were fundamental to not only our success as climbers, but also to our sustained, life-long passion for the sport. While our parents taught us that success does not come without hard work, they also never pressured or pushed us to pursue a goal that we were not wholly committed to. Our parents recognized how special the sport of climbing truly was, and embraced our family’s involvement in it with open arms. This honest, open, and positive outlook that our parents had when it came to climbing was essential in ensuring it continued as a central aspect of each of our lives.
As we each reached the end of our youth competition careers at the ccc, our involvement in the sport of climbing diversified. We all grew up as gym rats, but in the end have chosen very different roads to travel down. Only one similarity remained: we all continued on our life paths as rock climbers. For each of us, this sport has defined our lifestyles. Where we choose to live, work and play all revolve around the sport of climbing.
When Chris exited the competition scene, he discovered an entire world of outdoor climbing free from rules and regulations. He embraced the art of dirt bag climbing, living off refried beans and potatoes, while learning to become a jack of all trades in sport, trad and bouldering. He is now settled in Squamish, and his most recent endeavour has been route development in the Howe Sound, accessed by his boat, the “Sea Flea.” Stacey has remained committed to the competition scene, focusing on bouldering. Her career in nursing is f lexible and allows her to train and compete at an international level, while also finding time to coach and mentor future competition climbers. Having settled in Vernon, B.C., Mike has become a committed member of the Okanagan climbing community. From coaching to route setting, he is an active member in a thriving climbing culture in the region.
To be a climber is to hold endless possibilities in the palm of your hand. Climbing can take you to the absolute limits of your physical and mental self, whether that is in the gym or out in the mountains. It can introduce you to your best friends, and it can inf luence how you choose to structure your life. My family is the ultimate example of this. We were all introduced to climbing in the very same form, yet we have all grown to interpret and experience climbing in our own way.
There is a place in the world of climbing for everyone. It is a sport with a genre and a lifestyle to suit just about all but the ultimate couch potato. With so many possibilities and ways that each individual can develop within the sport, climbing is truly a special pursuit. It can be anything you choose it to be, and that my friends, is the ultimate gift.
Vikki Weldon on Steelhead 5.12b Paradise Valley, Squamish