Liz McLellan: Dancer and Climber?
First, I am not a climber. I have gone climbing, but do not consider myself a climber. I’m a dancer. After dancing for the past six years, I am finally comfortable calling myself a dancer. But, I wouldn’t call myself a climber. When I was interviewing at Sterling two years ago, I had gone climbing in a gym exactly one time. And it was amazing! I was long and strong, and muscled myself up the routes easily. I never went back. I have two kids, a house, a husband, at any time a menagerie of small pets, living, dying and in-between.
So driving down to my interview, I called my brother. The climber. Erik has been climbing always and everywhere. I had never really paid attention, but he was always off on one adventure or another, living a life of freedom. I had no real concept of what he was off doing, the danger, or the draw. I went for the more traditional life of stability in a career and a house that was in the same location year after year. Erik has a post office box, but no actual address. As I drove, Erik talked to me about rope. How he used it as a climber. Why he would pick one over the other. He might as well have been speaking to me about, well, pick anything else that I really have no comprehension about. My husband would say basketball, which is not true. He just knows more, and what help-side actually means. We’ll get into that another time.
It was less than a year later that I found myself in Durango, CO with Kevin Jorgeson, Angela Hawse and a film crew from Portland Maine. We were shooting footage for a couple videos, one on our Climbing Ropes and one about our new brand positioning – Freedom To Focus. I brought my climbing gear (yes, I had some at this point) and wasn’t really planning on climbing. Once I started at Sterling, I began going to the gym with my brother on a somewhat regular basis, but outside was a-whole-nother world I had not explored. When Kevin and Angela found out that I had NEVER climbed outside, they convinced me to go for it. What better time than with a world-renowned climber and a kick-ass AMGA guide.
I never questioned the gear (I’d be in big trouble, if that’s where my head went!), it was more about me. How do I even start?! At least in a gym, the route is clearly laid out for you, and you can even cheat and use other existing holds. Figuring out where my hands were supposed to go when I couldn’t see what I was supposed to be grabbing. Twisting my body into 20 different pretzels to determine that none of them actually got me anywhere except tired. It was an amazing challenge. No route was the same. Even the same route. Remember I do not plan my moves yet, much less repeat them. I managed to climb a couple routes in a canyon next to an amazing waterfall. I also got stuck 5 feet off the ground trying to figure out my next move, to no avail. I felt silly, frustrated and invigorated. I wanted to conquer that small section of rock. I wanted to be able to look down on it and say “take that!” Well, that didn’t happen. My fingers hurt, my forearms hurt, I was exhausted, and I still had to climb out of that canyon! As the sun set and the temp dropped, we packed up all the climbing and filming gear. But it didn’t matter, I had climbed outside. I had a tiny peek into the world that has captivated my brother and so many others. And I want to go back.