By Cristina Osorio
It started out with a curiosity. A shy and uncertain desire sparked by the hours sitting on a pile of rocks hidden by others while craning my neck upwards to see the artistry that was going on above. I spent many summer days secretly watching those in motion, the unknown slayers of stone, and unbeknownst to me it was my destiny to join them. The cosmos set a plan in motion, one that could have been predetermined before the dawn of our existence.
First I was to meet the man, second I was to learn from him, and last I was to be his equal.
- The first part happened by accident. The experienced Trad climber found me and all I had to ask was ‘when and where are we meeting?’ From the start I was mesmerized by his movements. Every step was calculated and quiet; every hand sure and secure. He moved up every face in silence with the controlled grace of a dancer, and it was like watching the ballet. Growing up as a ballerina, I noticed the delicate subtle movements and the amount of control; no energy was wasted on anything unnecessary. Every time I moved it was a battle, a warzone in which I fought with tooth and nail. Blood was spilt and the smell of sweat permeated the air around me. Our juxtaposition gave me a very visual idea of what I was aiming for; strength, balance, and composure under duress.
- The second part was the fun part. Each time we touched the rock I was given new lessons. I could do plenty of pull ups but learning about feet was a huge step up. ‘Feet should be quiet, trust them’ he would say. Side pulls, hand jams, finger jams, knee bars, heel hooks, and chicken wings all came next. It never mattered to me how hot or cold I was, how high up or how low to the ground. Sport, trad., bouldering never mattered either. All I knew was that every opportunity that my fingers touched the stone meant it was an opportunity to learn. No judgments have ever been made on which type was most beneficial; they were all equal in my eyes. If my work schedule cut off the daylight hours, then the bouldering gym was where I would go at night. My strength was building, the balance continually being tested and mastered, and the composure..well let us just say that grace comes with time.
- Lastly, being an equal to an experienced climber is still the ultimate goal. To be a reliable part of a two person team up a towering multi day face like El Cap, at a grade equal to my partner, where we can alternate lead pitches, is a daily dream. The desire touches the soft parts in me and brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. I am on my second year of climbing at the age of 28 and I have been progressing towards that. The climbers I have surrounded myself with have taught me early on not to just try hard, but to try harder. Being a woman and being short is in no way an excuse to quit. As a woman I have to rely on skill rather than strength and as someone under 5’5” I have to rely on flexibility of body and mind rather than reach.
- Lose your ego; there is nothing more humbling then climbing.
- Never let the words ‘I can’t do it’ leave your mouth; you are intelligent and can come up with a more creative way to express your narrow mindedness. Take a second to see where you are and where you have been; you can try to move forward but you have to look back to see where you were before you make your next step.
- Lastly, savor it all; savor each cool breeze, each sunny spot, each bruise and cut, each view and summit, each error and each success because you have life and are alive. I was destined to meet that man, it was written somewhere in the stars that my determination and will would be made for this type of challenge, and I too will become a slayer of stone like those I watched before a rope ever was laid in my hands.