In college a fellow climber once told me about the three types of fun. Over time I have come to realize that this wasn’t something that he came up with. It’s actually a pretty common perspective on fun in the climbing world. Since I’m missing a little of my engineering world I decided to put it in a chart.
Types of Fun
|Explanation||Climbing Example||Real World Example|
|Type 1||Fun at the moment||A straight forward climb, typically fairly easy with fun movements||Eating your favorite dessert|
|Type 2||Fun when its complete||A climb that pushes your limit. The moves are a struggle, but it feels great when you figure them out.||Solving a difficult puzzle|
|Type 3||Not really fun at all||A route that is way too hard, has loose rock, or for some other reason is not enjoyable at all.||
Cleaning the gutters (my least favorite home owner task)
I thoroughly enjoy type 2 fun. I enjoy pushing the limits and trying to figure out the problem on the wall. I alluded to it in the last blog, but I think that most climbers share this desire to get stronger and work on harder projects. There is a great sense of accomplishment when I strain and struggle, but then make it to the top. I think of the challenge as having 2 major aspects; a physical aspect and a mental aspect.
There’s the pure strength aspect of the climbing. I climbed at a wall in Red Rocks Canyon, NV called the Sweet Pain Wall. The name kind of sums it up. This wall was very overhung, but had lots of big holds. I spent most of a day climbing there and spent the next 4 days in sweet pain. There were muscles throughout my core and back that I didn’t know I had; but it hurt so good. That is a feeling I love. It’s not an injured hurt, but a soreness of having worked really hard and of muscles getting stronger.
There is also a mental aspect to the challenge. As a short climber I often have to figure out a slightly different way to make it to the next hold. Sometimes I have to use a super high foot, or a little tiny ‘in between hold’, but usually there is a way to make it to the top. My engineering type of problem solving enjoys that there is a lot of physics relating to leverage that plays into making the next move. In order to climb harder longer, it is necessary to climb smarter and more efficiently. There are many tricks and techniques to use less brute force, and almost dance up the wall. It is amazing to watch really good climbers because they make crazy hard routes look easy and fun.
I try to stick with the type 1 and type 2 fun, but I have to admit that there are times when I try something that’s a couple steps too hard and moves into type 3 fun. It’s good to struggle to get stronger, but fun is always my prime climbing goal.
I don’t enjoy the pain for pain, but I do like getting stronger. I don’t love heights, but I do trust the rope systems. I don’t not thriving on adrenaline and risk, but I do like pushing myself to the limits. I think that people assume these are part of why I climb, but in reality they are all things I do my best to minimize.
For clarity, a lot of climbers do thrive on the adrenaline and risk. They feel as though they can do more when they’re pushing those limits. They enjoy maintaining a calm clear head through a “risky” move. I put risky in quotations because it can mean something different for everyone. For me, this head game is just a required part of improving my climbing. It’s all about appraising the “risk” of the situation and deciding whether it’s a “risk” worth taking. I’m pretty conservative, one partner even told me that I should turn off my engineering brain. I told him; “Nope, that’s the part that keeps me alive.” This is a logic that continues beyond climbing. I’m always appraising risk be it take a left turn through traffic, hopping on a bicycle, or using a pocket knife. We are always making these decisions whether we realize it or not.