Picking up the slack in my climbing life / by Jessica Lee


Greek philosopher Epictetus once said "tell me the company you keep and I'll tell you who you are".

Never before now have I believed in this statement more.

Since coming to University of Sydney, the group of people I hang out with the most besides my housemates are rock climbers. As a result, I've been going rock climbing quite frequently and I've been learning a lot about the sport. Also, my forearm muscles are now huge and my finger nails are never painted. I'm coming back to Toronto real buff.

We went bouldering in a park the other week.


Bouldering is climbing, not up, but sideways. Or just shorter, more intense routes.


This type of training is good for you because typically it is more difficult (harder to hold holds) than climbing up. It trains your muscles so you can climb better.


I don't usually like bouldering because it doesn't seem like I'm achieving a lot since you don't really cover a lot of distance compared to regular rock climbing. I originally got into rock climbing because my mom wanted me to stop climbing trees since it was dangerous (this was when I was very young). And I first got into climbing trees because the playground just started to get boring.

I was scaling 5.9s as a kid and was doing pretty well. I didn't stick with it though. And the inconvenience of going to the gym and too many other interests got in the way climbing frequently. I did meet someone else who rock climbed eventually in my teens but both of us did it more socially rather than trying to improve ourselves.


I have since lost my agility but it's nice to finally dive back into rock climbing and learn so many new things from seasoned climbers. Rock climbing is great because not only do you get to go places many people wouldn't be able to see, but the people are usually friendly.


I really like the rock climbing community. Everyone is just so supportive of each other.

At the bouldering event, people kept saying encouraging things like "you got this" while other people were climbing. Little things like that just makes things seem so much more do-able hearing that while gripping onto a terrible hold. People also were spotting each other in case someone would fall.


I was learning lead belaying at the gym from my friend Dan last week at the gym and I shared a laugh with a complete stranger over something specific to rock climbing. These kinds of connections are usually rare among strangers but I love them. 

Dan was climbing and practicing some falls while a rope was attached from him to me. If you are familiar with how a see-saw works, you can imagine what would happen if a heavy person fell while climbing when attached to a light person on the ground. Answer: the lighter person flies upwards.

This is not really supposed to happen because usually you're supposed to belay someone closer to your weight. The first time he "fell", it caught me by surprise because I was jerked upwards really quickly. This caused the belayer next to me to burst into laughter and we had a moment. I like this so much more than going to a regular gym to work-out. In a regular gym, everyone is just so focused on improving themselves they don't have time to share. It's hard to start a conversation in a regular gym!


In rock climbing however, everyone works together to solve a bouldering problem by making suggestions. It really is a nice community. Everyone is more intelligent than the usual people you would meet in a weight room too. This is because you have to use your problem solving skills to get to the top of the climb.

Here is a photo I took of the group at bouldering last week. I like this one since it's pretty candid.