By Dave Shuey – Lead Climbing Guide at Colorado Adventure Guides
Adventure manifests itself in a variety of ways. Some hardened outdoor athletes claim adventure only begins when things start to go wrong. I define it differently. I believe adventure begins when one takes that first step into a personally unknown terrain. For some, the first time they venture past the sand, past the surf, out into the real swell of the ocean pushes them past their comfort zone into a new realm of activity. The experience transitions through several stages; from scary to maybe-this-is-alright to fun to comfortable. My favorite way to immerse myself within a theme of adventure is through rock climbing.
I was fortunate enough to experience rock climbing through the Scouts when I was around twelve years old. A group of us kids headed out with parents to a pile of rocks in the hills above our neighborhood called Castle Rock. As a professional climbing guide, I think back at that Swiss cheese textured cliff and chuckle at its size and ease, but back then, I was scared! This adventure required harnesses, special shoes, ropes and helmets along with a new set of lingo and communication. For me and the other children, this could have been El Capitan in Yosemite Valley for all we cared.
Gradually, as we moved through the set of new skills, such as how to use our gear, methods of belaying a climber, knots and hitches and eventually getting up on the rock, our nerves became settled and we began to enjoy the movement and process of rock climbing. Was I ever truly comfortable dangling from the side of a cliff that day? Probably not. But damn was I having fun! I tackled a new, seemingly daring, activity and felt that proper sense of adventure, even if only thirty feet off the deck. It’s all relative.
When taking families out rock climbing for the first time here in Summit County, I think fondly back to my twelve year old self and imagine myself in these kids’ shoes. It was an eye opening moment in my life, and I see that same spark light up in children’s eyes now. A combination of this-is-scary and don’t-look-down and whoa-I-was-up-there! Whether 8 or 58, the children and parents attempt the same lines, often getting stuck on the same challenging moves, and brainstorming together the best sequence to continue beyond. It’s inspiring to get families in the outdoors, challenging themselves as a unit, while forgetting about the intricacies of modern, daily life.
Engaging with nature from a young age is essential to building a lifelong pursuit of adventure. With my experience, it now takes long, multi-pitch, traditional rock climbing to spark that sense of adventure within myself. I want to feel the tension of my nerves while hiking up to the base of the route, a transition to smooth climbing movement as my position begins to feel familiar, and a great sense of satisfaction upon reaching the summit, knowing I had to push through all trepidation to succeed. I wouldn’t be at this point if it weren’t for the time I spent as a child and teenager pushing perceived limits while enhancing my comfort zone. Largely this is thanks to a day of family rock climbing when I was young.
Dave is an AMGA-certified Single-pitch Instructor/Guide with Colorado Adventure Guides and encourages all things adventure.