Susan E.B. Schwartz - Reader Blog 8


Climbing Knees, Climbing Legs

One of the pleasures of blogging for Climbing Magazine is meeting your fellow bloggers, at least in e-space.

Recently I exchanged emails with Climbing blogger, Sara Lingafelter, who is also juggling a corporate career and the climbing bug. Bringing to mind a story from my own corporate days.

This was back in the 1990s. During climbing season, I spent every weekend in the Gunks, camping out, sometimes sleeping in a friend’s truck. But during the week, I lived the life of a Manhattan corporate woman.

At that time, women didn’t wear pants in corporate jobs. Nor, for that matter, sleeveless blouses.

And I know this is hard for many to imagine: Particularly in this era of Michelle Obama, whose first official White House portrait shows off her glorious biceps. But this was even before the internet, email, and computers.

Every Monday morning started with an 8am corporate staff meeting. I’d stride into my company’s conference room decked out in full corporate regalia of the era — suit, stockings, heels, long sleeved silk blouse, big silk scarf, big pearls, big earrings.

And one thing decidedly non-corporate.

My knees.

The Gunks are known for roofs and overhangs, even on the most moderate and beginner climbs. A 5.3 overhang tops the classic Layback 5.5. A 5.5 roof tops the first pitch of Drunkard’s Delight 5.8, which looms so wide from below that you’d swear it must be several grades harder, at least.

Roofs were never my technical strong suit. Especially when I was learning. Inevitably, I’d knock, bang, and hit against them, scraping, bloodying, and bruising my knees.

At the corporate staff meeting on that particular Monday morning I was seated next to one of the firm’s senior partners. Who looked down and gasped. He had noticed my knees.

They were worse than usual. I forget what I climbed that weekend but roofs were clearly on the menu.

Even through my stockings, you could see that my knees were scraped, scabbed, black and blue, and swollen. His eyes traveled down: My legs were scratched from scrambling through bushes at the top of the cliffs, covered in welts from black fly bites, scaly from patches of poison ivy.

“What did you do to your knees and legs,? he asked incredulously. “They look even worse than those of my 7 year old son.”

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