Written by Andrew Crosson | Photos by Evan Anderson
Western North Carolina’s Rock Climbing Scene Reaches New Heights
People often ask if climbing is scary. The short answer is yes—but much of the fear that comes with climbing is familiar for those who already have experience in adventure sports: anticipation, excitement, focus, the need to push your physical and mental limits—and it’s these sensations that are kind of the point.
Climbing requires strength, sure, and most climbers possess enviable physical fitness, but it is as much about a strong “head game”—the mental toughness and single-mindedness needed to overcome a challenge that can feel paralyzing. “So many sports are about speed and moving fast, and there are niches of climbing that are like that, but mostly it’s about being in tune with your surroundings and about focus and control so much more than other sports,” explains my friend and climbing partner Nathan Ellis, a Western North Carolina native and veteran climber who I’ve followed up dozens of daunting rock faces. He posits that for climbers, it’s as important to pay careful attention to the internal as the external: “It’s a powerful life metaphor as well as just a really unique feeling. [Climbing] is really such an unnatural objective for humans to seek. There’s so much thought that goes into it while you’re in the act of climbing; you have so much processing time while you’re on the rock, it actually forces you to be aware of the fear and forces you to control it.”
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