Everyone is different, we all have different character styles, different motivators, different skill levels and different levels of commitment.
If you are new to climbing and trying to figure out where you "fit in” within the climbing scene, then this article will take you on a path of changing and evolving climbing identities.
If you are a seasoned climber, then this article may allow you to question what your climbing identity is, and if it's really as rigid as you may think.
Let me start off by saying that this article is based on my personal experience and observations of the climbers around me since starting my climbing journey back in 2014. Any one of the four identities that I mention have tons of variations and off-shoots, we are not all meant to fit within four categories. You may find yourself hopping in between a few of these identities, or hovering somewhere just outside of another. By no means am I trying to create rigid titles, I am simply giving an overview of potential climbing identities. It's perfectly normal, acceptable, and encouraged to float between the different types or stay within the same one for years.
The Hardcore Climber
Personally, this is how I started out as a climber. I wanted to try something new, so I went to the climbing gym on my own for the first time and I immediately fell in love!
This type of climber can usually be found at the gym 3-5 days a week and would literally hang out there all day if they could. They are hooked, committed, and utterly infatuated with climbing. When they aren’t climbing, they are researching how to get better at climbing, they know all about the different types of hang boards and they frequently practice various climbing drills both on and off the wall. They want to succeed and they have found their passion and drive. If you do happen to spot them outside of the climbing gym and in a ‘normal people gym’ then you can bet that they are training for climbing. They’re doing pull-ups, box jumps, and bent over rows, all of which are directly transferable to the wall.
Along my climbing journey I have met many many hardcore climbers, and a few conversations with them might look like this:
Me: What sort of activities do you do?
Hardcore Climber: Oh, I just climb.
Me: What about when its not climbing season, like do you ski or snowboard in the winter?
Hardcore Climber: When is it NOT climbing season lol...? I just go to the climbing gym if I cant climb outside.
Another conversation went like this:
Me: I just got into downhill mountain biking, it's so much fun. Have you tried it?
Hardcore Climber: OMG NO! I hear that people crash a lot, a friend of mine broke his finger! If that ever happened to me then I wouldn’t be able to climb for months!!
People who are Hardcore Climbers are all about dedication to the sport, they are motivating to be around and their commitment can be contagious! Hang out with these people and they may help bring out your inner hardcore climber.
The Social Climber
Through teaching courses at my local climbing gym, I have come to learn that many new climbers start out this way.
The Social Climber tagged along with a Hardcore Climber friend because their commitment to the sport was contagious. They quickly found that climbing is pretty rad and a great excuse to get together with friends. For them, climbing is like going to the movies or hanging out at a friend's place for a board game night. It's done occasionally but they always have a great time! This type of climber loves socializing, catching up with buddies, and cheering each other on. Their climbing sessions are usually a planned outing that involve going out for snacks or drinks after the climb. They might occasionally go climb on their own, or may be curious about ways to improve their climbing but for them, the focus is not on serious improvement but instead on having a fun time and enjoying themselves in the moment.
As I transitioned away from being a hardcore climber and into a social climber, I was less fixated on my own improvement and pushing my boundaries, and I became more interested in having a chill afternoon with some friends. The Social Climber is usually chill, easy going and down to get together and catch up. Reach out to them whenever you want a buddy to climb with and they are often down to join, cheer you on, and have a great time!
The Seasonal Climber
The Seasonal Climber may be a mix of both the Social and Hardcore Climber. The distinction here is that they cycle through various activities as the seasons change. They may climb outdoors in the summer, mountain bike in the fall, snowboard in the winter, and hike and camp in the spring. They want to spend the majority of their time outdoors and they recognize when each of their sports/activities fit best in the season. As I mentioned, they may become a Hardcore Rider, Hardcore Skier, Hardcore Camper throughout all these seasons, but they still cycle through sports, unlike the ‘Non-Seasonal Hardcore Climber’ who climbs year round.
If you get the chance to take a peak into the Seasonal Climber’s gear closet, it's gonna look like you walked into a personal sized MEC store. They will show you a wonderful assortment of ropes, belay devices, trad gear, multiple climbing shoes and chalk bags, but that's just for the climbing season! Just wait until they show you all their backpacking camping gear, or their set of skis or split board and if they also ride bikes, you’ll bet that they have all sorts of spare parts and repair tools to keep their ride in top shape.
The Seasonal Climber is an outdoor enthusiast at heart, they love their adventures and they have all the gear for whatever next trip they have in mind. While I am still building up my personal gear closet, I will say that I appreciate the seasons and love that there is the perfect set of activities to fit into each season. I love the changing of sports as seasons cycle and I find this refreshing and exciting. It lets me finish the season feeling satisfied and still wanting more, but excited for the next set of sports as the new season comes around.
The Here-and-There Climber
These people are down for anything! They may have a single pair of super old climbing shoes and might have to borrow your old harness, but stick em on the wall and they’re ready to go! This type of climber often picks things up quickly and loves adventure and sports. They stay open to possibilities and avoid the commitment of purchasing gear for sports, allowing them to come and go as they please.
The Here and There Climber will likely not purchase a climbing membership anywhere, as that may lock them down to a particular location, but call them up when you want a buddy and they are down to try out whatever gym or crag you may call home. They might have a different sport that has stolen their heart and that they put their focus on, but they aren’t about to deny trying new activities. This type of climber may climb a handful of times a year, they think it's pretty cool but they have other interests and don't plan on dedicating their life to climbing the same way a Hardcore climber may.
How about you?
For me, this article came about because I currently feel as though I am flowing through cycles within my own climbing identity. What started out as a Hardcore Climber then morphed into a Seasonal Climber and now maybe even a Here and There climber with all the gym lockdowns over the last year and a half. I want you to know that your climbing identity is not set in stone, it is fluid and changeable as phases of your life come and go.
You do you, have fun, enjoy yourself and do what you love!
You’re the best!
No matter what kind of climber you are, it's always important to take care of your skin and your hands. Whether you're a Hardcore Climber and need the hand care year round to keep your calluses fresh and strong, or your a Here and There Climber who wants to soothe sore hands after not climbing for a while. Bomber has got your back and we want you to do your best, no matter what that looks like to you! Keep crushing :)