• Grace Piera

Rock climbing, a personal essay

Kat, a new writer at The Student Op, writes about her exhilarating experiences with rock climbing and how collaboration has shaped her into a better climber and person.


I tie the figure eight knot, attaching myself to the lead rope. I have one attempt at a climb that is completely unfamiliar to me. My teammate Isabelle cheers, “Remember, Kat! It’s just you and the climb!” However, even when I cannot rely on or even interact with others, I know I am not alone. Zoe taught me to smile, since mental preparation means possibility.


Through long debates with Alec about the optimal MgCO3 to CaCO3 ratio for moisture absorption, I am confident I have the right chalk for climbing.


I look down at my shoes, remembering all the videos I have analyzed of Janja Garnbret in the IFSC World Cups. I reflect on the articles and books I have read. I surround myself with knowledgeable people, keep my eyes open, and determine how to apply what I have learned from others even when I am facing a daunting situation alone.

Unfortunately, I fall just before finishing the climb. I am disappointed, but eager to watch other competitors’ approaches, receive feedback from my coach, and examine my video footage to understand my miscalculations.

When I walk into the climbing gym I am immediately drawn into conversations with people I have known for years and others I that I just met that day. The conversation topics range from generating enough momentum to reach the next hold to a long debate about whether it is proper to store ketchup in a refrigerator. The best part is, every climber has a unique perspective; as we collaborate on climbs, stem-cell engineers, teachers and college students share stories about outdoor adventures, family, and struggles with self-image.

"whether it be explosive and fast, or slow and controlled, one’s approach to climbing tends to mirror their approach to life"

If we are willing, we can learn from each person we encounter. At the gym, these connections are not just conveyed through words, but are also represented by each individual’s climbing style; whether it be explosive and fast, or slow and controlled, one’s approach to climbing tends to mirror their approach to life. We become better climbers based on others’ insights; these lessons extend beyond the gym to every area of our lives.

The gym is a 45,000 square foot lab. It is not only a place to interact and observe human behavior, but I employ the scientific method with each climb: gathering background information, developing a hypothesis to test with specific methods, collecting data, noting the results, and forming conclusions.


Climbing is not just a sport but a lifestyle; I draw from my surroundings to develop innovative ideas to share with others.