“No one is thinking about you.
They’re thinking about themselves, just like you.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always apply in the climbing world. Our third myth is slightly different, in that it isn’t a myth. To be truthful, people are watching you, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Let’s have a look at reframing those thoughts and exploring exactly what it is that people are looking at.
Friend: “I don’t want to get a chalk bag.”
Friend: “I’m worried people will think I have all the gear and no idea.”
This is a genuine conversation I had with a friend of mine who was new to climbing. Her main concern was that, just starting out, she wasn’t very good and she didn’t want people to think she was getting above herself. But even though people are looking, they’re probably not looking at your kit (unless they’re very jealous of your super-cool chalk bag).
I am a self-proclaimed people watcher and I know I’m not alone. I know this, because I know people watch me climb. So, why do I watch people?
I might have just done that route you’re on, or maybe I’m gearing up to try it. Maybe it’s already spat me off once or twice. I have no idea who you are, but I want to see how you do this route.
Beta is getting information about the route to help you get up it and it is key to helping people progress. It helps you find new answers to your problems and progress technically. Maybe all the people I’ve seen climb this route are six foot two and have given me the advice of ‘just reach’. If you’re closer to my size, you might show me a way around this.
Is the wall quite busy today? Perhaps there’s even a competition on. The walls are swarming with people and I’m waiting my turn. I can’t just look at my feet. I mean, I’m probably deciding what I want to have for dinner or glowing from that super-balancy slab route I just topped, I’m not actually looking at you, just staring in your direction.
‘I’m quite tired & not ready for my next route’
Similar to queuing is recovery. I don’t want to head to the café just yet, so I guess I’ll hang round on the mats. All that’s going through my head is if I did get a tea, would my fingers be able to cope with holding the mug?
Ok, I know you didn’t ask for it, but perhaps you look like you’re struggling. I am an uncontrollable beta-cannon when I go bouldering and I know it can be annoying, but I just want you to succeed! Most of the time, if you’re really focused on a route you might not hear me until the round of applause when you touch the top, but if it’s distracting, please feel free to tell me (or my equivalents) to be quiet and let you work it out for yourself. We won’t take it badly, honest.
I AM IN AWE OF YOU
Maybe I’m not as good at climbing as you. And wow you’re on that route? I can’t even get off the ground. I am staring open mouthed in the deepest respect. I’m probably not alone. Own it you super-human climbing machine.
Your chalk bag is really cool!
I want one too. Where did you get it? You made it? You can sew! Cool. Half an hour later, we’re in the pub, setting up our next climbing date. I’ll get you the beta on that red route if you can give me the pattern for that bag.
In summary, climbing walls can be busy places and it’s hard to avoid people. When you’re feeling self-conscious, try to remember that we’re a really friendly bunch and we want you to succeed!
If you struggle with crowds, talk to your local wall about when they have quieter times (and maybe even lower prices too!). But also, never be afraid to ask someone to move away if they are making you feel uncomfortable for any reason.
Now, I’m off to the wall to stare at some random strangers… I mean climb!
By Caitlin Ripley