We sometimes treat them like the lowest of the low — like a new recruit in boot camp in the Army or something — but sometimes “The Gumby” aka a new climber can teach us the most important lessons in climbing.
by Luke Mehall, publisher of The Climbing Zine
It happened to me the other day — I was at a crowded crag in California and getting a little bummed out. I’m one of those spoiled Western Slope of Colorado climbers, where we have so much rock and comparatively so little climbers that we never really have to deal with crowds if we don’t want to, thus I’m not accustomed to it.
So there I was, bummed that every crack climb had someone on it, or a line, and people are queuing up all over the place and ropes are everywhere and “off-belays, on-belays” and I finally find a climb without someone on it so I rack up.
And then here he comes: the new climber. I could see the smile from a hundred yards and hear the hexes from two miles away. Of course he had hexes, and sixty foot long pieces of webbing, and six daisy chains and twelve belay devices and two way radios, all not needed, but you know what this guy had the STOKE! And I needed some.
I’m nearly two decades away from my Gumby days. But I was the same, so overcome by wonder and psyche that something in this world as cool as climbing existed. So in need of some direction.
We start talking to this guy and his partner, and you know what he brought me back to life. He started asking climbing questions, about the Western Slope of Colorado and was ridiculously psyched on my description of the places I climb, and the fact that we have so much rock and on and on.
And then, my mood started to change. He literally boosted me back up, back to where I wanted to be, and always want to be: that childlike excitement for climbing, the feeling that brought each and everyone of us who love climbing to where we are today.
So there he went on his hour long lead of a 5.6 corner, talking excitedly the entire way. And up I went, excited again, psyched and stoked (stiked?!) to be on the rock, learning something from the beginner, the Gumby, the person who is appreciating each and every moment of this beautiful thing we call climbing.
Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine, and author of American Climber, The Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed.
About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle.