Cassandra Jones

Climbing Helped Me Find Confidence In High School

The sport has helped me calm down when angry and pushed me to succeed even after failing countless times

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I'd just topped out on a boulder, a pump of blood rushing through my arms. I used the last of my energy to heel-hook the top of the rock and push myself up. I stood up and screamed in amazement so that the few gym employees present could see my accomplishment. I had been working on this particular problem for about a week and was determined to finish it. But overcoming challenges like this one is just one of the many reasons I have become so infatuated with rock climbing, which has quickly become a staple in my life. These days, whether I'm working or working out, I can most likely be found at the Gravity Vault Indoor Rock Gym.

When I was originally hired by the gym in January 2014, I was intimidated: I had to learn about a sport I had only tried several times at camp. I was taught there are three different types of sport climbing: bouldering, top roping, and lead climbing. Bouldering involves climbing shorter walls without the use of a harness and rope. Top roping is traditional gym climbing — you must be tied into a rope and belay system — and lead climbing requires the climber to attach their rope to preset anchors as they climb.

I also learned about a grade system to show what routes are harder than others. The easiest climbs are rated at a 5.8 in the grade system for top rope and lead, and each increased decimal represents an increase in difficulty, while the easiest climb in the bouldering grade system is a v0, with whole-number increases representing more difficult climbs.

I'm the youngest employee at my workplace, so I have had lots of guidance. I have also learned to try to take criticism openly and strive to be better on and off the clock, which has helped me gain a lot of confidence. While I was originally terrified to answer the phone, for example, I now jump at every chance I get to talk to a new customer. I'm also still pleasantly surprised that I am capable of teaching newer employees how to do tasks with which I used to struggle, such as how to explain different sessions offered in our gym or how the grading system is used.

When I first began to pursue this sport, I only had the courage to try top roping. When several boys with whom I climb spoke about how my fear of falling prevented me from bouldering or leading, however, I began to do both and pushed my previous perceptions about my climbing ability.

Climbing has helped me calm down when angry and pushed me to succeed even after failing countless times. I have learned to take my time even when I want to rush to the finish line. I also have a place into which I can walk at any time of day and know that somebody is always there for me.

One of the most important things that this gym has taught me, though, is that passion can sprout from anywhere. After nine months of persevering, pushing my limits constantly, and taking an unexpected lead fall, I am beyond proud to say I am able to climb a 5.11 top rope, v4 bouldering, and 5.9 lead. While these numbers may mean little to many, this progression signifies so much for me. Although it may have taken me longer than other adolescents to find an activity that I genuinely love, climbing has had one of the biggest impacts on my teenage years all the same.