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It's Okay Not To Climb

Written by Leslie Kim


Posted on May 10 2020

Hmm. I’ve struggled with this on so many different levels. On a number of trips, I remember feeling like it was necessary to take a rest day but also felt like we “had to climb” in order to make the most of our time and travel expenses. Many times that lead to little aches and pains that eventually accumulated into bigger injuries. Sometimes I was scared to lead something or felt like it was out of my range, but someone said, “no way, you should do it!” Many times those words have been appreciated, especially if I was on the fence or just feeling a little under-motivated, but I knew I could actually do it. I'm grateful to those partners who knew me well, sometimes better than I knew my own ability, to push me to try again.

However, I want to think a little more about mindless encouragement. It happens a lot, especially in bigger groups. Are we encouraging our friends to get on a climb just to appear “encouraging,” or do we really think it’s a good idea for them? Personally, I appreciate a partner more when they are supportive of me bailing on a route rather than pushing me to finish it at a higher risk.⁠

For the past few years, and especially with the extra time we have during quarantine, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of the climbing trips we take. Our lifestyles can get us so pent up and itching to climb that a lot of times we don’t care about how many people are using the area or what the weather is like. "We HAVE TO climb!" I’ve been victim to that kind of thinking, too. Having a good climbing experience is something to look forward to, but I don’t think it’s something we are entitled to. Sometimes the weather isn’t favorable. Sometimes another party is on our planned route. Sometimes our bodies don’t want to cooperate.⁠

How can we have a healthier outlook on how we recreate outside? Are we rudely speeding by other hikers because we just “have to” get there first? Are we parking in areas that we shouldn’t be just because "we drove 5 hours to get here, and don’t want to change our plans?” Do we bash on ourselves when we can’t send the grades we are “supposed to send,” or go climbing as much as we “should be climbing?" It took me a long time to tell myself — it’s OKAY not to climb. You can actually enjoy yourself in so many other ways and still have an AWESOME day. Climbing is a choice, it’s not something that you MUST do. Climbing can be incredibly beneficial, but it can also be just as damaging. If you think climbing is for you, you definitely should try it. Safely, and under good guidance. But I don’t think it’s right to say that everyone SHOULD climb, or that it is something that everyone will obviously love. Climbing has opened up a world of possibilities for me and given me an activity I enjoy and a community that I absolutely love being a part of. But in order to be a better member of that community, I’ve also had to learn that sometimes, it's really okay not to climb.


This piece was originally published by Leslie on Instagram. However, we thought our blog would also be a good place for these thoughts to live. If you want to join in the conversation, head over to our Instagram post to participate, or start a new discussion here!

Since writing this piece, we have received quite a few inquiries about whether or not we are recommending climbing at this rather confusing time when some areas (but not all) are transitioning out of Covid-19 quarantine. This article was not intended to give any kind of quarantine-related advice, or even general advice on whether or not it is legal/ethical to climb at this very moment. It is meant for readers to expand their perspectives on climbing and to serve as a catalyst to reflect on their own beliefs and observations. If you have questions about whether or not you should climb right now, we recommend this guide, provided by the Access Fund.

Thanks so much for reading this through. We think you're just the best.

-Leslie Kim



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