Keeping the fun in sport.
It’s a pleasant summer afternoon and a group of us have driven out to Paradise Valley to climb at Allenspur. We’ve warmed up on a couple routes we know, and now it’s my turn to start up one we don’t.
I make it past the fifth bolt before the wall vacates itself of holds. I shift my head—up, down, left, right—scanning for something to grasp. I see nothing. Below, my friends hurl sarcastic insults and smart commentary. “Where do I go!?” I plead. “Up!” they shout back. Thanks, guys. I’m frozen, and seconds feel like minutes as my forearms scream for mercy.
Finally my left arm gives out and I fall onto the rope. This pleases the group; they laugh and boo as I’m lowered to the ground. The heckling continues as the next contestant ties into the rope.
He reaches my highpoint, throws up a high foot, and clears the move. The crowd below cheers. After a successful ascent he reaches the ground and we check the guidebook. The route is a 5.10. My friend is jubilant in his success; I am humbled by my failure.
Which is exactly why we created this game—taking turns on unfamiliar routes, mocking and jeering each other all the while. The losers receive booing and sarcastic commentary; the winners, though not spared the sarcastic commentary, also receive cheering upon reaching the anchors. After the winner has been crowned, all participants state what grade they believe the route to be—winners mostly guessing low and losers mainly guessing high.
We do this to keep ourselves honest. Because all too often, climbing can become shrouded in ego, with an inherent value placed on progress. In a sport where grades keep getting higher, kids keep getting stronger, and egos keep getting larger, it’s important to occasionally forget about grades and progression, and just have some fun, talk some trash, screw around. Not to mention, it’s great exercise—for the forearms, the mind, and the ego.
Of course, this ethos of forgetting about grade and athletic advancement isn’t restricted to climbing. It’s also highly encouraged when skiing, biking, kayaking, running, or any other sport. All you need are some sarcastic friends and a good sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself and leave the ego at home. You—and your sneering, jeering friends—will be glad you did.