Each of the three times that I’ve come back to climbing after a break this summer, I’ve thought about how I want to quit. I especially want to quit trad climbing, with its fiddly gear and unknown safety margin, but also, I want to quit climbing above bolts and pads. I want to quit climbing because it’s so damn uncomfortable. Climbing forces me to stare out beyond my comfort zone, and with plenty of time for contemplation, forces me to step beyond it with trembling legs. That, too, is why I can’t quit climbing.
The last time that I thought about quitting, I sat astride my other summer love, a mountain bike. Having waited out a thunderstorm and suffered through hail and lightning beneath a shrub of a tree in the high desert outside of Bend, I was pedaling hard and fast down the bermed corners and rock drops of the Funner trail, sprinting for warmth and drifting the corners through piles of hail balls. Cornering left at a fork towards the more technical downhill section, I opted for the largest drop on the left and pinned it off into the air. Flying far and landing with absurd softness at speed, I laughed aloud at the ridiculous fun of freeride mountain biking. I wondered: why on earth would I choose to climb when I can fly on my bike? And why (for the love of the sweet baby Jesus) would I ever choose to climb ice rather than go skiing?