On Falling

by Stephen Regenold (VJ5 Summer '99)

 Sport climbing is all about falling. If you don't fall often during an average day of sport climbing, you're simply not trying hard enough. Conversely, ice climbing is all about not falling. Not many people truly want to find out whether an ice screw will hold or not. So when I racked up this spring and drove to Barn Bluff near Redwing, MN to pull some 5.10, I was a bit surprised at how different the rock seemed after a long season of ice. Instead of the rigid and straightforward movements required on the icefalls, I was forced to lunge and twist and contort my body to progress up the crag.  

 On the stone, the first 10 feet went well, with large holds leading me to a good stance. The second section was strenuous and after 15 feet progress, I stopped to hang out at a large pocket. By this time, I was sweating heavily and my forearms were bulging like a water-balloons. Frustrated, I leaped toward a solid-looking shelf. The shelf was slopped and sandy and, after a brief second, my hands skated and I was off into the bliss of freefall.

Later that day, we traveled further down into one of the bleakest sections of the Winter Wall. After scopeing our options we decided upon an unlikely-looking line of bolts.

On the climb, I felt naked, smearing and hanging painfully from my fingernails. Sweat again began to drip from my forehead and I looked up into the sun. Before long, I was once again free as a bird, soaring toward earth, if only for an instant.

I began to enjoy this freedom to fall and push myself on every move. Too many times, I'm a conservative climber, hiking the same routes, pulling the same moves-moves I could do with my eyes shut. It's when I push myself into the unknown that I feel the true joy that this sport can offer.

Similarly, in life one must rely on new and challenging experiences to keep a fresh and optimistic view of the world. Without uncertainty and challenge, life is secure, but bland.

So fall down, fail and give up. Battle wounds will only make you more desirable in the end. And with the realization that you've given life your all, this existence can seem more complete. Don't wait for regrets, live fully every day.