After a long drive from the Tohono O’odahm Reservation in Arizona, Proctor Academy's Mountain Classroom arrived on the planet known as Joshua Tree National Park. The yuccas here sprout from the ground like Truffula trees, and the plutons are forced up from subduction of continental plates. It’s a land known for its climbs and scrambles, and we were led through its bounties by our talented guide, Nate Pakula from Naturalists At Large.
On our first day we focused on building trust. Trust in the equipment, in each other, and in the systems. This trust grew and grew as we became more and more proficient and capable in skills like belaying and safety checks. There is a unique trust in yourself, and feeling of empowerment from standing up on a three millimeter ledge supported only by your toes, and looking down to a 30 foot fall. You have to be confident in that moment, that the person below you has you safe on the rope, and you have to be trusting in yourself if you want to reach the top. All these come together to make the day more than just a few climbs, rather a life lesson in this fact that we need the support and trust of others in order to reach our goals.
A great joy of climbing is the mental challenge of problem solving and reading the rock. Whether you plan out your route or you just jump on, you have to be creative in the ways you can most efficiently use your body to mechanically rise on the rock. It's a puzzle, except that you’re high off the ground with your muscles straining to keep you on the wall until you find the next piece. This stress keeps your heart fluttering and your mind sharp. You learn to keep pushing to the next move while staying deliberate and calm.
Rock climbing forces you to stretch and test your comfort zone. Sometimes to succeed you have to put yourself in a situation in which you feel nervous. But that little push brings you closer to your goal, and sometimes you won’t reach it. You have to be comfortable with the uncertainty of the next move; will you fall or not make it to the top? Simply by starting a climb you are putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. Some of us in the group challenged ourselves on a personal level, like doing the harder route or even climbing with no hands because we knew we had to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.
We walked away with cuts, scrapes, bruises, and pumped arms, all while smiling. We had reached the top of our climbs, and we felt good about the sacrifices we had to make, and the risks we had to take to get there.
~ Cooper and Andrew