Why Climbing Matters

Oct 03, 2013 1 Comment by

Coolibar Athlete Sevve Stember is a natural born climber, always seeking the next mountain to climb. This summer, he and his wife, Andrea, moved from Minnesota to Colorado to pursue new opportunities and climbing routes. Sevve shares why climbing is important to him and journals his favorite moments during his first summer in the Rocky Mountains.

I often ask myself, “Why climbing? Why do I care about it so much? Is it significant?” I am very aware of the priority that I place on climbing in my life, so it’s important for me to grapple with these questions. I’ve distilled my reflection down to these three themes:

1. Human connection
We all seek to belong to something and to be understood. In climbing, I’ve found more like-minded people that I can connect with on many levels than I could’ve ever imagined. The journal entries below are all really special days in my life that I will look back on with fond memories and good times. Despite the obvious individual aspects of climbing, there are many profound implications that climbing has on the people that share it together. Trust, sacrifice, failure, success and frustration…these feelings are shared with my climbing partners through a common love of being outdoors and challenging oneself.

2. The Bigger Picture
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal the body and soul alike.” -John Muir

When working in Yosemite National Park, I used to share this quote with visitors as an eloquent way of getting at the significance wilderness has to a person. There are many different belief systems about how the world came to be. For instance, as a science teacher, I believe the world is very old and has been slowly changing for billions of years. When climbing, I can connect with the many different processes that occurred before I could enjoy its continuous crack system or perfectly sculpted pockets. Being in nature helps humans tap into a state-of-mind that is hard to come by elsewhere, it helps us connect with our beliefs—whatever they might be.

3. Progression, Goals, and Self-betterment
Climbing routes are graded by difficulty, providing climbers with data to see personal improvements. Personal growth is something that drives me in all aspects of my life. The motivation I receive from trying to climb harder routes spills over into other aspects of my life, such as being a better teacher or learning how to be a more supportive husband. This matters because it helps me be a more productive, efficient and passionate member of society.

It was a summer to remember, to say the least. Seeing new sites, sharing beautiful vistas with friends, sleeping under the stars with my wife, and I continue to learn along the way. Although at times I do have doubts about how I spend my time, I know that finding that thing that drives me to new places: good friends, higher goals, are critical to living a fulfilling life.

South Platte

Summer 2013 Climbing Journal: My First Summer in the Front Range

June 11
After a fantastic evening on my aunt and uncle’s back porch in Rapid City, South Dakota, Andrea and I stopped briefly for a couple climbs in Spearfish canyon. We were closing in on the final leg of our move from Minneapolis, MN to Denver, CO. I hung draws on a route called “Wow!” and climbed it on my next try without falling – very gratifying!

June 17
Today I met Matt and Linde, friends of mine from Minnesota, in Boulder, Colorado. We climbed a 4-pitch route (route with four stops) called “Athlete’s Feet”. Towards the top of the route a large thunderstorm rolled in, and we descended just as the first drops hit. Linde met us and we rolled to a different crag (an outcrop of rock) to do some shorter, harder sport climbing routes. Matt is a climber that I looked up to a lot when I lived in Duluth, MN years ago; it was fun to swap leads with him all day and work a route that we both got on our second attempt.

Sevve sending Animal Riots Activist (5.12a) shortly after Matt showed the way

June 28
Eldorado Canyon is known as one of America’s premier climbing destinations. I had never been there before today. Frank, a good friend of a friend, and I climbed the classic “Bastille Crack”. It was great to experience a new piece of American climbing history while getting to know a new friend.

July 4-7
Being the patriotic people we are, my friends Garrison, Dan, Frank, Katie and I headed into the heart of the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming to celebrate the 4th of July with some real cowboys. I’ve driven through Tensleep before, but never had the pleasure of climbing there. It was phenomenal to say the least. I set several benchmark onsights (climbing a route first try without any information) and flashes (first try; but with prior information). The trip was complete when we saw a full on cowboy brawl during the street dance. Wyoming must be the most unchanged state over the past 50 years.

A typical view in Tensleep, Wyoming

July 14-15
My buddy Dommer flew in for the weekend and we headed north towards Estes Park. A good crew of friends were waiting for us upon arrival, and as we waited out an evening storm a double rainbow appeared over the breathtaking view of Longs Peak. The next day, we climbed granite spires and soaked in the sun.

A good crew of goofballs enjoying the double rainbow

Sevve

July 24-25
Rifle is one of the most sought after crags in the American sport climbing scene. My wife Andrea had a week off from her residency duties and we took the chance to go check it out. From the parking lot, the approach was about two minutes. Once the sun hit the side of the canyon we were on, we’d walk two minutes to the other side of the canyon. Such good rock! Although Rifle has a reputation of being super challenging, I was encouraged by how I climbed while visiting. We also tagged the summit of Mount Massive, with a not-so-alpine-start, leaving the parking lot at 11am.

Andrea and Sevve on the summit of Mount Massive, near Leadville, CO

July 31
Summer draws to a close. Our friends Dan, Bron and their son traveled from Minnesota to visit for a couple days. Dan and I had been getting stoked all summer to climb the face of Longs Peak; a feature called The Diamond. In 2007, while living in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I became familiar with The Diamond. Since that summer, I had always dreamed of climbing it.

We woke up at 1:30 a.m., slammed coffee and jammed to tunes on the five mile drive to the parking lot. Amidst dozens of peak baggers, we quickly ascended the six mile approach to Chasm View and rappelled onto Broadway ledge, which marks the beginning of the routes on the Diamond. Pitch after pitch went by as we kept a watchful eye to the east. We witnessed many thunderstorms roll in, but to our good fortune, they were always several miles away. I got to lead the crux pitch, which is one of the last pitches on the route so the full day’s toils had definitely taken their toll. I meticulously made my way up the finger crack section, followed by a full on chimney that deposited me onto the final crux bulge. With horrendous rope drag, I managed my way through the crux, and belayed Dan up. An hour later we were on the summit and our luck had run out. Sleet started to fall and we opted to make our way down the Keyhole Route instead of rappelling the Cables Route; which I predicted would have some scrambling on exposed (and recently wet) slabs. We made it back to our car feeling exhausted, but so fulfilled. Dan is embarking on a “50 noteworthy climbs by the time he turns 50 years old” adventure and this was his 1st of 50. I met a personal goal and felt really competent in a complex environment. This was a day to remember the rest of my life.

The gratifying sunset on the hike back after climbing The Diamond

Like the shirts Sevve is wearing in the photos? Shop Coolibar UPF 50+ Short Sleeve Fitness Shirt and Long Sleeve Fitness Shirt

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One Response to “Why Climbing Matters”

  1. Jitendrapal Singh Kundan says:

    Mr. Sevve, thank you for sharing what living means to you. As, I read through your blog, it reminded me to nurture the nature within and without.

    You are inspirational.

    Jit

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