I don’t own a pair of rock climbing shoes. I’ve rented them all my climbing life. I know; it’s probably a little embarrassing for me to admit this here. The reason is while I’ve climbed rock, I’ve always glamorized snow and ice routes above rock. That’s why I invested in plastic mountaineering boots years ago rather than “summer” gear. I now think I’ve arrived at a place where I need to put a pair of shoes with sticky rubber in my rucksack.
Part of my reasoning is that rock climbing is much more popular and accessible than general mountaineering, ice climbing and alpine climbing. Climbing magazine always covers way more rock routes and profile rock climbers than snow and ice routes and true alpinists. That’s always been an issue for me when I crave the high, cold stuff.
Yet, recently I started looking at the rock stories with new interest. I began broadening my view of climbing, even while I write mainly about alpine climbs because that is what I dream about. Getting to the top of high, icy and snowy peaks is what climbing has always been about to me — ultimately I still believe that. But that’s hardly what is accessible around here in Peaklessburg. Our nation’s capital is mainly flat except for the shallow gorge and waterfalls formed by the Potomac River west of Washington, DC. Great Falls, VA and Carderock, MD offer about a hundred top roping climbs. A little further out are some modest crags in Shenandoah National Park. Further still are climbs in West Virginia, like Seneca Rocks.
There are also climbing gyms in the area for training that have good reputations. I think I might have to hit ’em up and take advantage of some instruction. Hopefully their reputation is partly due to their instructors. I’ll let you know.
While my ideal climbs are cold climate routes, I think I am starting to figure out how to make the most of living in a flat, hot and humid, urban area. Part of it might be embracing — even if not fully adopting — the regional tradition for rock climbing.
I’m not a diehard rock climber and don’t see that changing. I still won’t be aspiring to send big walls in Squamish, though I think those that do deserve a lot of respect. Some gym training and some outdoor top rope routes would be nice. Maybe I’ll get the nerve up to lead climb again one day.
So I’ll be pulling out my old Gear Guides from Climbing as a starting point. If you’ve got any advice, let me know…