How to tell your Mom you rock climb.

If you’re like me, you’ve more often than not had to explain to “non-climbers” what rock climbing really is. People frequently have an image in their minds, and it roughly looks like this:



We call this, “scrambling.”

Scrambling does not rock climbing make. Trying to explain the idea of climbing a vertical rock wall under your own power, using the rope only as a way to not die should you fall is rocket science to your average office worker. Though we have fantastic resources for the layperson out there (think Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger), most folks in the real world have no concept of what we do. A family member once asked me about why I go out to a local ‘crag’ almost every weekend, asking “how many times can you climb the same mountain, don’t you get bored?” I mentioned that there were over 200 routes at that “mountain”, and I haven’t even done half yet. I said: some are too easy so I skip them. Some are too hard, so I’m trying to get strong enough to do them. Some are low quality, zero star routes that aren’t worth doing. Some are “R” rated and I’m working up the courage and beta to get through them. And some, are yet to be discovered.

This is the look I got:

For the love of God, don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to explain what bouldering is. Hell, even I don’t understand it…. Find a rock, sometimes less than 10 feet tall… try to get to the top. No, not the easy way up: find the most difficult way up. No, don’t start trying to climb standing up, get as low as possible with your ass hovering inches off the ground. Good. Now fall 50 times, shred your skin, bleed, curse.. and if the temperature and humidity are just right, you’ll get to the top. Down? Take the easy way down..

So what is rock climbing… How do you explain what working a route is? How do you explain how the human body can stay glued to a rock wall with only a toe and a few fingertips crimped on edges the width of a book cover? How do you explain to your Mom how gnarly your fall was on that 5.11 splitter because you ripped half your pro, flipped upside down, and cracked your helmet, only to try again 30 minutes later?

You don’t.

Don’t tell your Mom anything! In fact, don’t try to explain climbing to anyone who doesn’t climb. There are only two possibilities: Either they’ll think you scramble around on 3rd class terrain with Vibram FiveFingers on your feet. Or worse, they’ll think you’re planning to one day climb Mt. Everest. There is no middle ground, and in both those scenerios, you’re a giant pussy.

The next time you’re at a family dinner, and everyone starts asking about your “rock climbing” hobby, just whip out a few photos like this and say, “it really helps me become ‘one’ with nature”:



7 thoughts on “How to tell your Mom you rock climb.

    • even more ridiculous is all the cheerleading and “no shirt” BROs that you find bouldering. It’s a damn frat party for a bunch of rock jock posers!

      i really question if we should even include bouldering as “rock climbing”. technically it is, but in spirit it isn’t.


      • I, too, laugh about how bros boulder shirtless but are cold enough to wear a beanie–but I LOVE bouldering. Rope climbing isn’t the same. I love the strategy you need in bouldering–it’s more critical than rope climbing.

        I realize you compare bouldering to a frat party but I like the fact that it is more social than rope climbing. You don’t get the opportunity to share moments with friends when rope climbing (until afterwards).

        The social and laid back aspect to bouldering appeals to me because I can actually enjoy my surroundings with friends. Friends can also give technique tips, and you can quickly take turns versus waiting 20+ minutes for your partner to finish a route/pitch.

        Just because a small community in the climbing world turned bouldering into a hipster/bro activity does not make it any less authentic than it was in the first place.


      • The instructors at my local gym call bouldering “free climbing”. I guess they thunk that’s a big joke, they charge like $15 a session 😦


  1. Hey Wes, I found what works for me is I don’t tell people I go rock climbing at all. Rather I just say I go “hiking”. Most people understand that and want no part of it since, as we all know, hiking sucks ass!

    This also eliminates all the retarded follow-on questions such as “how did you get the rope to the top?”, or “can I go rock climbing with you sometime?”

    Oh, and I leave mom out of loop when it comes to “man stuff” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hehehe! That’s a fun post. We definitely feel you, man! When we try to explain the concept of rock climbing to non-climbers, we often get blank, puzzled expressions. And it gets even more difficult when we try to explain HOW we climb. Hehehe!


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