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Story by Maya Gans /

I yelled in agony and excitement as I jammed my way up Wall Street’s 30 Seconds over Potash, and after thrashing, grunting, and thrushing, I reveled in my success when I made it about a third of the way up the route. My hands and feet joined the perfectly parallel, soft burnt-orange fissure. I was climbing through weathering and geological features. I was climbing through time.

“Why do you climb?” It’s the existential question that goes unanswered, but only because of the limitations of language. Our community is content without an answer because we all have that moment, that feeling. Whether flowing through routes in the gym, clinging to crimps on a boulder, performing vertical ballet on limestone, or jamming through piton scars, all climbers contemplate why they do it. The bond of the community transcends words, and the people I meet at crags around the world make me proud to identify as a climber.

After that moment on Wall Street, climbing became my obsession: an outlet to concentrate my efforts and a metaphor for all other aspects of my life. Projecting has taught me that failure is inherent in the path to success and setting goals doesn’t mean achieving them, but it does ensure growth. Eighteen-hour alpine adventures have taught me to face the unknown head-on. Aid climbing has taught me if you have the will to suffer, you can achieve the unimaginable. Training has taught me that order is the key to managing chaos.

I climb as a hobby––more than the weekend warrior, but less than my husband who’s living in our Sprinter. I’m struggling my way through graduate school while struggling up the sharp feldspar in Veedawoo. I’m not an exceptional climber. I’m barely average. But that’s the beauty of climbing; trying hard doesn’t start at 5.13, it starts the first time you put on your harness. I love climbing because I love that I don’t have to explain why I do it, and why when I’m not climbing I’m watching videos or reading books and blogs about it.  Climbing is hard, and so is life. Both take a toughness and perspective I aspire to continue to harness. Hardships arise every day in my non-extraordinary life, but climbing has helped me to realize that sometimes you have to downclimb or traverse to eventually find your way up.

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