Life lessons from rock climbing

My arms were quivering, my legs fatigued, and my fingers were killing me as they dug into the jagged limestone. I cautiously peered below me at the ground that seemed miles away. I was about to lose my grip and I couldn’t see any good hand holds above me. I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and yelled below me, “take!” Our Yamnuska rock climbing guide, Rob, made sure to cinch and lock the rope in place before hollering, “gotcha!” I immediately released my death grip on the rock and relaxed into my harness. I gingerly rubbed my aching finger tips while I sank a few inches as the trusty rope absorbed my weight.

I was stuck. It was my very first time rock climbing and after successfully ascending two different faces, I was in limbo on the last climb of the day. Before we even started this endeavor we were briefed on the proper rock climbing lingo. I learned what it meant to belay and how to communicate with the person who literally held my life in their hands. Rob explained that if I got tired, fatigued, or frustrated while climbing, I simply had to call down to my belayer and yell, “take.” That person would then make sure that my rope was locked and secure before they yelled, “gotcha!” It was then safe for me to let go and take a little break.

Rob explained that sometimes climbers get so caught up in getting to the top that they only focus on their hands and they forget to think about their feet. He encouraged me to sit back and relax in my harness, gather my thoughts, and look for a different way to get to the top. It wasn’t long before I found the perfect footing and easily scampered the remainder of the way to the top. Easy peasy.

Yamnuska rock climbing

It didn’t dawn on me how beautiful of an analogy this was until earlier this week. I was stuck on a piece that I was writing. Frustration had set in and I didn’t know where to take it from there. I literally threw my hands in the air, looked at Chris, and calmly whispered, “take.” Confusion briefly flashed across his face before realization hit. He warmly smiled and told me to take a break. We went out and got some coffee while I explained my dilemma. It wasn’t long before I was refreshed and had a slew of ideas on how to finish my piece.

It’s so true. Sometimes we are so focused on getting to the top that we have tunnel vision. We only see our hands in front of us as a means to reach the finish line and we struggle to find the right hand holds. A perfectly good solution might just be under our feet. I have been blessed beyond belief in that I have a number of people in my life that I trust as my belayers. These are the people that I know will yell, “gotcha” when I am fatigued, stressed, and gripping to that ledge for dear life. No matter what problems I may face, I need to keep my belayers close and remember that there’s usually more than one solution to any problem.

Canmore Yamnuska rock climbing

What about you? Who are your belayers in life? Have you ever been too focused on your hands that you forgot to look for other solutions? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Special thanks to Yamnuska and Travel Alberta for the incredible and eye opening rock climbing experience.

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  1. Teresa
    May 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Great insight and as always, LOVE your perspective. So refreshing (and inspiring) to hear a young person have such clarity in vision of LIFE! I just want to follow you guys around the world (maybe get an old bus and paint it all rainbow, put a Partridge Family cassette in, and just soak up your brain energy)! I actually love thinking outside the box and always have an A, B, and C plan. Not sure if it has to do with my 20 years in the military, Girl Scout training or just the fact that I’m old 🙂

  2. Maria
    May 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Oh the things you can learn when in nature and testing yourself. Kudos!
    Maria recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – PeruMy Profile

  3. Elissa Cortesano
    May 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    This was great. So very true. Thank you for the reminder. I read this at the perfect moment.

  4. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse
    May 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I’ve only ever climbed a rock wall, but I could only get up once. I just don’t use those muscles! ‘Tis quite the work out.

  5. Casey @ A Cruising Couple
    May 24, 2013 at 4:13 am - Reply

    I love the life lessons you took from rock climbing. Dan is an amazing climber, and I dabble with him a bit sometimes, but I don’t think either of us have ever thought about the belayers in our life. I’m going to have to go climbing with him again soon just so I can think about tunnel vision and belayers while I’m in the actual act. Thanks so much for the inspiration 🙂 What did you think about climbing? Sold yet?
    Casey @ A Cruising Couple recently posted…6 Ways to Photograph the Hong Kong SkylineMy Profile

  6. Tim H
    May 24, 2013 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Ah coffee. My wife and I end up doing the same thing when we’re stuck while writing. We get to ‘take’ a break, and as a bonus we’re discovering the local coffee culture.
    Tim H recently posted…Want to Experience the Mountains? Try Ice ClimbingMy Profile

  7. Savi
    May 26, 2013 at 6:13 am - Reply

    Touché- your perspective is refreshing. We haven’t been rock climbing for a while now, and this post makes me want to go back to it ASAP
    Savi recently posted…HUGE GiveawayMy Profile

  8. Anita Mac
    May 26, 2013 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Very cool! I so have to try rock climbing! Did a little rock scrambling in South America but you guys have taken it to the next level! Thanks for the tip -will try to remember to use my feet as well!
    Anita Mac recently posted…Monday Morning Series: North Bay SunsetMy Profile

  9. Traveling Ted
    May 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    My belayer is the closest bartender. I say “take” and they pour me an IPA or perhaps a Guinness.

    Great analogy between rock climbing and a situation that happened while not traveling. I often find that my travel experiences are relevant in every day life whether it is a mindset or a travel device that helps me figure out a problem.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Much to do in MagalufMy Profile

  10. Erin at The World Wanderer
    May 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    This was exactly what I needed to read right now. I love the analogy of rock climbing to life and the idea of a “take.” Beautiful!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted…Road Trip Essentials.My Profile

  11. Britany
    May 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Love rock climbing and this is a great analogy. Although sometimes, its actually better to just plow ahead and see what happens on a wall so you don’t waste your strength thinking about it for too long — just reach hard and go for it, knowing that if you do screw up, someone’s got your back. Both are appropriate for different situations, depending on how tired you are, I guess 🙂
    Britany recently posted…“Stress Free Solo Travel”? Yeah, right.My Profile

  12. Fiona
    May 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Sop well written – actually felt like I was climbing the wall too!
    Fiona recently posted…Britain’s Original Rock and Roll Isle: Eel Pie IslandMy Profile

  13. Leah Travels
    May 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Dear gawd…if your arms were quivering then my would be quaking.
    Leah Travels recently posted…Hello, Dalí: Visiting Salvador’s Spanish HomeMy Profile

  14. @mrsoaroundworld
    May 28, 2013 at 3:57 am - Reply

    Love this – I have only attempted a wall and found it so hard. Brave people, you!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted…A lovely weekend in Lyon, FranceMy Profile

  15. Raul (@ilivetotravel)
    May 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Nice piece. I have those belayers when it comes to career decisions and turns in that road. They always help me attain clarity. There is usually a good bit of wine or margaritas involved…
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted…Honey Badger Anyone?My Profile

  16. lola dimarco
    May 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    very philosophical! its great to appreciate those around you who are there for you!
    lola dimarco recently posted…Driving in the English Countryside in the Summertime, YES Please!My Profile

  17. David
    June 3, 2013 at 11:10 am - Reply

    That looks pretty hard to do.

  18. Beth
    June 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    You’re so right, it is wonderful to have belayers in your life. Not only do they support you and catch you when you fall, but they see things from a completely different angle! That extra pair of eyes can make all the difference in reaching a goal! I really loved this analogy. 🙂
    Beth recently posted…why i travelMy Profile

  19. Danny Delnison
    June 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Not easy! Thank for sharing. This is helpful lesson 🙂

  20. Nidhi Shrivastava
    June 24, 2013 at 5:29 am - Reply

    I am sure this was not easy. I also feel like doing it once. I know it is painful but still love to read the post. Will try once

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