Welcome to my Never Quit Climbing blog

A practical, inspirational blog designed to encourage and give hope to people who are climbing mountains of rock and granite or ones life has put in their way.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You Can Risk Without Climbing, But Can't Climb Without Risk

I remember my first 14er climbing up the Keyhole Route on Long's Peak. To really serious climbers this route is no big deal but it was for my 13 year old son and me. And I clearly remember meeting four men coming down as we neared what is called the "Ledges" section of the climb. I'd read about that dicey portion of the route and expected them to be a challenge but I didn't anticipate what I heard from these descending climbers.

I asked them if they'd made it to the summit. And one of the guys responded, "No way. I took a look at those ledges and decided that I have a family at home. It's too dangerous to go on."

All of a sudden I got this lump in my throat as I began to think about whether the risk for us was going to be worth it. As it turned out we went on, felt cautious, yet comfortable navigating the ledges and the Home Stretch and went on to the top.  However, there was a risk every step of the way. There always is.  The question is how much risk will we take on and how much risk will we allow to keep us from going forward.

Of course there's no easy answer. Being foolhardy can often end in death whether on a mountain or driving our car. There's something to be said about being shrewd and wise. But we will rarely go forward on our climbs if we're unwilling to accept some significant risk.

How do we determine what is too much and make a wise decision?  First of all, we must prepare as well as we can. Whether we're on a rock wall or stuck facing a personal mountain, preparing well, learning all we can and scouting out the route before us are vital to handling risky situations. The better we prepare the more risk we can likely endure.

Second, know your abilities and limitations. Some climbers are far more qualified to tackle routes that we cannot. That's ok. But our somehow believing we can do them may put us into risky places we shouldn't be. As Tim and I continued on the climb up Long's I knew that we had been in situations like that before and could handle it. If all of a sudden we had run into technical climbing beyond the class 3 we were facing, it would have been time to turn around.

Third, deal honestly with the personal issues that may push you to do more dangerous things than you can handle.  For some risk becomes an unhealthy and dangerous adrenaline rush that only dulls a lot of our pain but could eventually kill us. Some are still fighting off the demands of past hurts, disappointments or abuses and so we spend much of our lives trying to please others.

As a result we do things foolishly and push ourselves beyond healthy limits. We think we must live up to everyone else's expectations of us. That can be deadly or at least destructive.

So instead of using risk to fill a hole or need in us, remember that it can be a normal and healthy part of any climb. But do what you can to control how much you face and how you deal with it. It can be friend or foe.


  1. The phrase Keep Climbing is indeed inspirational; a great reminder. It makes me want to add it to the end of my emails :). I remember when my husband and I decided to climb Bishop's Peak in San Louis Obispo. We hadn't done our homework but we should have! If we had, we'd know we'd be hiking through packs of wild horses (dozens of them) and the hike would be so steep at one portion that coming down would need to be done with great caution. I did not come down with the necessary caution and came tumbling down. I had scrapes and bruises all over and itched like nobody's business once I landed in a patch of grass. Needless to say, your points are incredibly valid for hiking real mountains, as well as the figurative ones in our lives.

  2. Thanks for your story and encouragement. Glad you kept going. Ironically, we used to use Keep Climbing until a guy who wrote a book by that title but had no other use of it took legal action against us. Go figure. So we went with Never Quit Climbing. Same idea, right? Thanks again.