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10 Reasons to be Thankful You're a Climber: Hallelujah! I'm a Climbing Bum!

Climbing is different from many other sports. The dangers of climbing make us acutely aware of our own life and mortality. Climbing helps you decide what is really important. Climbing transcends the mundane aspects of everyday life, of the ruts of job and money and houses and shopping that we fall into.

It’s good to sit down with pen and paper, preferably on your favorite summit, and jot down why climbing is important to you and then be thankful for the climbs, friends, trips, adventures, and lessons that climbing has given you.

Here are 10 reasons that make me thankful to be a climber and mountaineer.

Travel, climb, and marvel at the beauty of the cliffs and monasteries at Meteora, one of Greece's most famous climbing areas. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

1. You Travel to the Best Places on the Planet

As a climber, you have the opportunity and the excuse to travel and be part of the wildest and most beautiful places on planet earth—granite walls at Yosemite Valley; the jagged Dolomite Mountains; Africa’s Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro; the canyonlands around Moab; the monastic cliffs at Meteora; and the rarified air of the Himalayan and Alaskan ranges. Enjoy the journey.

Climb the Edge of Time like Ian Green at Jurassic Park for stunning views of Longs Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

2. You Find the Best Views

Climbers, like eagles, have the best views, looking down from lofty mountain summits and desert towers onto the world below.

You earn the views by climbing upward,front-pointing with crampons up a steep snow gully to a peak, or jamming cracks and face climbing up vertical rock walls to the cliff-top.

At the summit, in the fading sunlight, you feel special and privy to a view few other people in the world will share.

3. You’re Part of a Worldwide Community

Climbers live everywhere in the world and with social media sites like Facebook and Instagram you can connect with them and make new friends and climbing partners when you travel and climb around the world.

If you’re traveling to Spain, Greece, Norway, Thailand, or Australia, you can hook up with locals who speak the same language of the rock and have a similar passion for vertical adventure. Friends for life.

Visit Stanage Edge, Britain's most popular crag, on a summer weekend and you'll make lots of new friends. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

I hang out with climbing friends--Dr. Bill Springer and Brian Shelton--on the summit of Aires Butte at Zion National Park, Utah. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

4. You are a Lifelong Adventurer

Climbing is more than a sport—it’s a way of life. I started rock climbing when I was a 12-year-old kid in Colorado and never looked back. As a lifer, climbing shaped my life, my career, my relationships, and my friends. Even still my oldest friend is my longtime climbing partner Jimmie Dunn, who I first met and climbed with when I was a high school student in 1969.

You'll get strong like Noah Hannawalt when you climb hard at the Ute Pass Boulders.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

5. You’ve Got Strong Hands

Climbing has two faces—the mental and the physical. To be a good climber requires a commitment to physical fitness, being conscious of your diet, and learning to be aware of your body’s rhythms.

Unlike earthbound people, you learn to move across strange terrain using your hands, arms, legs, and feet in a vertical dance. You also develop strong hands…perfect for opening stubborn jars for your mom.

As a climber, you spend lots of time outside hanging out with your climbing partners, like Dennis Jackson holding my son Ian on the left and Major Tom Luman on the right at the Black Canyon in 1979, at cliffs and campsites. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

6. You Spend Quality Time Outside

As a climber you spend a lot of time outside, away from the office, from home, from the indoor climbing gym.

You learn about weather, dressing for bad conditions, and avoiding lightning strikes. You learn about routefinding and reading a map and compass or a GPS receiver unit so you can never get lost. You bivouac on big walls at Zion National Park and sleep nestled in a tent perched on the rocky flank of the Grand Teton.

And when you return to civilization and normal life, nothing is the same. Your senses are heightened. Your world has expanded beyond the door stoop.

Climb to the top! Ian Green atop the Grinning Tooth on Pikes Peak. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

7. You Climb to Live More Fully

Life is a grand adventure and climbing lets you live life to the fullest extent. You have choices. You can choose to work five days a week in an office, to commute to work on a four-lane interstate, and to strive for that big house in the suburbs. Or you can see beyond work and career and pursue your passion for the mountains and the canyons and the cliffs.

You can choose to live your life on different terms than “normal” people, finding joy, passion, and meaning in the great outdoors and, through your climbing adventures and the life lessons that climbing can teach, you can create and shape significant relationships with spouses, partners, children, family, and friends. Just don’t be a narcissist.

Climbing is dangerous, especially when you're hanging on a fragile rope on a long free rappel in Arizona's Black Mountains.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

8. Climbing Teaches You that Life is Fragile

Climbing is dangerous. When you climb, when you fall, when you have a climbing accident, you realize how close to the edge you can be as a climber and mountaineer. You learn that the thread of life is fragile and sometimes thin and that we need to pay attention.

As you live and age, some of your climbing friends will die in accidents on the rocks and in the mountains. That is part of the package that you sign up for when you become a climber, but that knowledge is also freeing.

You have the gift of becoming aware of what is truly important in your life and what is trivial.

Rob Masters, Brian Shelton, and CJ Sidebottom toast 1911 pioneering climber John Otto on the summit of Independence Monument at Colorado National Monument. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

9. Climbing Gives You Great Friendships

Climbing reflects the dichotomy of human experience. On one hand, I must climb alone, using my climbing skills and experience to reach the top. On the other hand, I am a member of a team. I have a partnership, a strong bond, with a climbing partner. Climbing is about partnership and friendship. As climbers, we work together and in doing so, we reach our summits and goals together.

We look out for our climbing buddies, make sure they are safe, and they in turn do the same thing for us. They check our knots, give us belays, and encourage us to climb higher.

As climbers we discover that life’s great adventures are to be shared together—we share life, joy, and adventure.

Climbing is a great adventure! Be grateful that you can stand on summits and climb vertical terrain that no one else dares to reach. Aubrey Green cranking at Penitente Canyon, Colorado.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

10. You Learn that Life is Action

It is good to be grateful for the many lessons that climbing mountains and cliffs gives us.

One of the most important lessons is this: Climbing is action. It’s about doing, acting, trying, and being. It’s not about talking. Words don’t get you up a vertical rock face or to a remote mountain summit. Actions, the precise upward movement of hands and feet moving with delicate balance, gets you up.

Climbing puts you in the moment. It takes you out of your head and thrusts you into the world with a primitive immediacy. Climb and find the great Eternal Now.

Later, bring the lessons you learned from the vertical back to the tribe.

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