Susan E.B. Schwartz - Reader Blog 4


Pairs Climbing

I wrote an article for the next issue of Climbing (Issue No. 272), Confessions of a Climbing Mom. In it, I discuss what we get and what we give up as climbers when we take on the inherently contradictory mission of motherhood (and to a lesser extent, fatherhood).

Be forewarned: It’s the stuff that no woman sits you down beforehand, stares you in the eye, and dishes it out straight, girlfriend to girlfriend. (You’ll see what I mean when you read my article.)

Accompanying the article is a photo of my daughter Grace, then 6, taken on her first time climbing in the Gunks. The photo was part of an unplanned shoot – a photography enthusiast, Martin Joffe, happened to be walking along the Carriage Road at the base of the cliffs and caught sight of Grace and me as we started up the beginner classic, Betty 5.3, side by side.

Marty was charmed, he told me afterwards, by the mother and daughter tableaux he watched unfold as I encouraged and demonstrated. After we got back down to the base, Marty approached me and offered to email the images.

The photos were spur of the moment, without Grace or I aware that Marty was taking them. You can tell — I would have struck cooler poses on the rock.

And my get-up! Geez, if I had known my image would appear in Climbing, I would have worn a cooler outfit than pink-on-pink. And I certainly would have chosen cooler shades.

But leaving aside my questionable fashion choices, what struck me when I saw Marty’s images of that day on Betty was how they showed Grace and I weren’t just climbing. We were pairs climbing.

Remember pairs figure skating? After years of intense practice, two skaters are so physically attuned to each other than they perform skating maneuvers in perfect unison or mirror images of each other.

Grace and I never discussed, rehearsed, or intended to climb in synchronization. Yet as Marty’s images reveal, there we were, unknowingly a pairs climbing team.

Having a child means you climb a lot less (as in a LOT LESS) than before. But as I was reminded by Marty’s images from that day on Betty, it also means that you literally and metaphorically have a pairs climbing partner for life.


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