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Why “Above the Bolts”?


I imagine anyone reading this already knows what this means in terms of climbing. But just in case there are any non-climbers here I'll explain. 😁


When lead climbing, (a form of sport climbing) as you progress up the wall there are bolt hangers anchored into the wall at intervals of like 5 to 10ish feet. When you reach one of these hangers, you clip a "quickdraw" into it, and then clip your rope, which is attached to your harness, into the quickdraw. Then you keep climbing, and repeat the process at the next hanger. What this means is that every time you climb between bolts, if you fall, you'll get caught at the last quickdraw you clipped, but you fall to a point below it, determined by how much of the rope is out. The point is, being 'above the bolt' is kind of a sketchy, scary, insecure, tentative, unsettled, risky, boundary-pushing sort of place to be. You see where this is going…


I wish I could say I love being in that vulnerable space, and that I pursue it with nothing but vibrant joy. But that would be a big ass lie. I do find it extremely valuable though. I get something powerfully rich, alive, and self-affirming when I'm able to venture out onto that unknown path, convince myself to trust my hands, my feet, my decision making, the gear, and whoever is belaying me on the ground, and keep ascending. There's really nothing like it and I want to live my life that way too. Acknowledging when I'm scared, making a plan, but also willing to make moves even when I don't know how it will turn out. Make some mistakes, know when to stop and when to push on...yep, that feels about right.

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