Sarah Jane Alexander - Reader Blog 4

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Who needs money when you can trade it for gear? Photo by Sarah Jane Alexander.


Even though I was barely off the ground, three little boys gazed at me with awe. I was handling that gym plastic like I was born on it. Not doing anything tough or fancy – just graceful traversing.

"Are you a real rock climber?" one of them asked.

I replied with a question I had asked myself many times. "What's a real rock climber?"

I could see them thinking hard, but perhaps my philosophizing was a bit deep. So I gave a suggestion. "Is it someone who climbs on real rocks outside?"


"Well, yeah, then I'm a real rock climber." My answer was oversimplified for the little guys. I didn’t know how to make them understand that a deeper feeling makes me a real climber: I cannot separate my soul from the rocks.

I am addicted, obsessed, tormented and thrilled.

My mind swirls with climbing riddles all day and even in my dreams.

I spend a vast amount of time pondering such questions as:

  • How can I improve?

  • Where will climbing be good this time of year?

  • How do I become a ropegun?

  • Is any badass gear on sale?

Etcetera, etcetera into infinity.

Boulders bejewel the Sierra Nevada foothills between Fresno, California, and Yosemite. Photo by Sarah Jane Alexander.


While some people climb, they could live without it. If I had to live without it, my next philosophical question would be: "Am I alive?"

Climbing renewed the joy of living that had faded since I was a child and every day was a new adventure. As I languished into adulthood, mundane stressors such as commutes and bills filled my habitual orbit of thought.

Now that I am excited about the chance to grow as a climber, to dream up escapades, to develop new friendships, I say I wasn't alive. I existed.

Now, this old world is new.

Everything I behold, I examine with awakened eyes.

Driving through the picturesque foothills that lead to Yosemite, I perceive rocks adorning the hills as more than landscape furniture.

"What grade would that one be?" I wonder. "Hm. I bet I could get up that."

Recently I was telling a woman who lives near one of the quaint foothill towns about my passion. "I'm obsessed," I said.

She laughed. "I climb once in a while. Not very often. I live near a great site though."

"How could you stay away?" I wondered. "How could you live near rocks and not be all over them constantly?"

Then I realized, she's not a climber. She's a person who climbs.

True climbers have one mood: climb on!

If they're not doing it, they're thinking about it, reading about it, plotting trips. Their minds have no rest days.

Lately, my checking account has lacked rest days; I'm starting to build my rack.

My company is laying off workers. Though I am trying to keep my fear of losing my job in check, I would like to have a cash cushion. But when biners go on sale, or when I must have a grooved belay device ... bye-bye money! I watch my cushion shrink as my rack grows.

So hell yeah, I am a real climber.

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