My 2018 Climbing Goal: #climb13in12

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary

It’s no secret that I absolutely love rock climbing. As a form of mediation, stress relief, strength training, exercise, and as a way to just plain get outside, I think it’s pretty hard to beat.

At the beginning of 2017, I made a bold goal: climb grade 5.13 in twelve months. Well, that plan was foiled with a series of blunders, detours, and physical set-backs. But hey, it’s a new year! and as of 1/1/2018, I am recommitting myself to this crazy goal.

But before I continue, I’d like to explain why this goal is so crazy. A little background on climbing grades and ratings…

Some of you may be asking yourselves why I’m doing this—or maybe you’ve made equally-impossible goals of your own for 2018. Here’s a run-down of my reasons:

It keeps me climbing. There’s no better excuse for doing more of what you love than having a goal related to it. Don’t just make your goal “to do more…” [whatever it is]. Make your goal to get better at it. And quantify it with specifics. For example: to run three 10k’s this summer, to catch 10 fish over 20 inches this year, to go to five MLB games at 5 different stadiums this season.

It allows me to climb more. In my own estimation (I’ve never seen actual stats done on this although estimates about on forums), I’d say about 50% of the world’s climbing routes are under the grade of 5.10d. Go up to 5.11d and you likely add another 30%, then another 15% up to 5.12d. And now you’re entering elite territory. I can only guess that only 5% of the world’s climbs (and climbers) touch 5.13a or harder. Climbing Magazine says only 1% of all climbers can climb grade 5.14. If I can reach 5.13a that means 95% of the world’s climbing routes—and the beautiful places they lead to—are accessible to me. (Now remember, these are just my own estimates and only based on my own limited experience.)

It keeps me physically fit. This one is obvious. Don’t think I need to explain it… Climbing is physically demanding: endurance, balance, flexibility, explosive strength, core strength, fingers strength, and the whole body.

To pass on a love of climbing and the outdoors to my children. It’s an excuse to get outside and a great way to show my family what the world is like outside of suburbia. Unfortunately, if you live near Chicago, you have to travel pretty far in order to enjoy climbing outside. Devil’s Lake, Jackson Falls, Mississippi Palisades, Red River Gorge, and The Beach are all top-notch climbing areas within a day’s drive. (Yeah, it sucks having kids holed up in a car for a long drive; but it’s mind over matter!)

To show my kids that they, too, can set goals and, hopefully, achieve them with persistence and a sound strategy. Yeah, yeah. Goal-Setting, training our kids to think critically, setting them up for success in life, blah, blah, blah. You can’t argue that the idea of leading by example here isn’t a good idea…

I love to travel. Yep. Daytime, nighttime, close, far, car, plane, or train. I love seeing new places, seeing how people “do life” around the country and around the world. I love learning new languages and cultures. Possessing the ability to climb higher grades gives me another reason to travel to new climbing areas.

Setting goals and working towards them makes me happy. Nothing more to say here, either. Pressing towards the goals I set motivates me and gives me purpose. They get me up early and keep me up late—all with a goal or two in mind.

I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t say that I’d love to find some partner companies to help cover the costs of traveling to new and unique places to climb with my kids. If I could climb “full-time”, you know it would be an absolute dream.

So what’s my game plan? How do I hope to achieve this crazy goal? In climbing, everything boils down to a few ingredients:

  • Build finger strength
  • Cut body fat
  • Increase leg strength
  • Improve flexibility and balance
  • Balancing increased strength with increased muscle weight
  • Master the mind (the fear of falling, failing, or “trusting myself”)

Regular body-weight exercising, running or cycling, training sessions at the local climbing gym, and plenty of finger training at home are all a part of the game plan. I even recently picked up one of these fancy-pants fingerboards for strengthening my fingers and forearms.

In the coming weeks, I hope to get help from trainer friends, putting together a more specific plan. If you’re interested in tracking along on my journey, I’ll be posting periodically here on The Dad Lift, HERE, and on Instagram, using the hashtag #climb13in12. Cheers! and climb on!

Jay is the father of four. He is a musician, climber and brews beer.

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