Mountain Classroom has been on the road for three weeks. Most recently our adventures have found us traveling through remote parts of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Our limited access to the internet means we are delayed in sharing stories from this part of our adventure with you, so thanks for your patience! Below, we share thoughts on our rock climbing experience in Cochise Stronghold after getting acquainted outside of Tucson. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on Grand Canyon backpacking and their hunter/gatherer experience near Boulder, Utah!
During our three days of rock climbing I discovered a new level of strength within myself. There were moments when I stopped climbing on the wall because I could not see my next move, and at these points I felt vulnerable. I started struggling and everyone could see my weakness. I have always tried to hide my weaknesses, but on the wall it was impossible to hide. I had to face my problems straight on. I could see that I had two options. The first option was to stop climbing and be lowered, however, to me, this option did not exist because that would mean I quit and failed. I am a competitive person, which meant my only course of action was option two. I had to find all the strength I had within myself to continue up the wall until I reached the top. The strength that I found was primarily mental. I kept saying, “I can’t” when I really needed to say, “I can.” Once I found the grit to say “I can,” I eventually made it to the top on every wall I scaled.
The feeling that overcame my body was more than joy, it was indescribable. These climbing moments helped me discover that I had more in me than I knew. I was thrilled to make it to the top because the view was breathtaking and having our community of incredibly supportive people cheering me on made me proud of my accomplishments. I am grateful to have watched everyone else climb and succeed at some of the hardest walls we came across. Their achievements inspired me to challenge myself even more. I am forever blessed to have experienced rock climbing with my wonderful friends.
One hundred feet in the air, another three hundred feet above the base of the mountain, my heart began to beat faster. The hot, unrelenting sun beat down on my soaked forehead, and for a kicker, my harness was ripping into my lower back. Every hair on my body stood straight with a chilling wave of anticipation. My breath sped up, and I began to smile as Katie, Keith, our guide Aaron Mike, and I hung on a magnificent perch, taking in all of Cochise Stronghold through our tired eyes.
Three days of rugged climbing had led to this moment, and my, what a view. The landscape that lay before our eyes was a brilliant array of flat dry desert, steep red rock cliffs, and the patches of unnatural sport-field-green of irrigated land. On top of the grand scenery, I could see the pathway that brought us to this critical final climb.
We had begun the week at various levels, some feared being ten feet from the ground, others started as semi-seasoned climbers. Over the course of the three intense days of attacking the walls, all of our fingers were sore, and our bodies spent. But the most noticeable change from the first morning of climbing to the last afternoon was the confidence of each individual. The climbers who struggled to pull themselves ten feet off the ground, were scampering across and up the rocks, fifty feet in the air. The more experienced climbers were able to accept defeats against the wall, and appreciate the personal difficulty that they had faced. Growth in both physical and personal stamina was clear and present in each of us.
At the culmination of my three days climbing, it was fitting for me to tackle the two-pitch one hundred foot climb, not because it was hard, which it was not, but because it represented pushing my known limits and achieving the highest climbs. Katie, Keith, and I wore huge smiles as we hung in our harnesses, waiting to be lowered back to the comfort of solid ground. My heart was beating fast now, not out of fear, but from the feeling of accomplishment, that I shared with my friends, and through the conquering of the many walls, together.