By Jazelyn Hoel
And there I was, standing at the top of my first 5.10 climb, shaky from the adrenaline and tremulous looking down over the trees. For a moment, I felt a part of the gorgeous red sandstone, like I was a part of this vast Devine wall towering over me.
I had only climbed a single pitch in Idyllwild 2 months prior and since had only touched gym walls once. I wasn’t your experienced Wall Street climber, nor did I consider myself a climber to the slightest degree at all, yet I had just successfully ascended my first 10 route.
The brisk breeze brushing past my ears muffled the sounds of hoots and hollers from below before a “Great job, Jaz!” startled me out of my entranced, I-can-achieve-anything daze. Suddenly, I realized there were two others waiting to ascend Visible Panty Line, half celebrating my small victory and half encouraging me to get the hell down so they could take their shot. I took a deep breath, looked around one last second, leaned back into my harness and did exactly that.
In the mornings, I crawled out of my tent to the smell of crisp air mixed with dark roast coffee. The group then shared a light breakfast over conversations about where the day might lead. The seven us who were there to climb the red walls of Moab, Utah, passed around the Moab climbing guidebook while proposing different routes to hit that afternoon. Some of us, like myself, were simply along for the ride, happy to be in the great outdoors yet slightly nervous for the journey ahead. The most experienced of the group, Alex, who also happens to be my significant other, jokingly referred to himself as “King of the Camp” as he collected his gear and casually chatted about leading more difficult climbs. According to him, everyone would be able to set new climbing goals and reach new heights (literally).
Though my apprehension to get on the wall was very much present, the encouragement I received from the group was infectious.
Felice, a fun-loving, carefree spirit whose wild curls framed her cheekbones when she smiled, looked at me with understanding and said, “Nah, don’t worry sister, you’re going to be great out there. And if you don’t get up, just try the next one!” The simplicity in her words and easiness of her tone was so utterly genuine that I couldn’t help but get excited as we packed up the car and drove the whopping 2 minutes to Wall Street.
Wall Street was surely a sight for the eyes. A grand treasure to Utah that I, and about 6-dozen other travelers, had the luxury of enjoying for the week.
With blips of momentary awe, we watched as the bright sun peeked its rays from behind the clouds, illuminating the rocks before us. The view was unlike anything else I’d ever seen, making my eye for capturing our fellow climbers through the view of a lens seem like a photographic phenomenon, shot after shot.
We moved along Wall Street with tenacity and enthusiasm as each of us ascended different climbs. Our tribe shifted and swayed amongst one another granting each of us an opportunity to belay or be belayed by someone in the group. I admired the women who offered to belay me and allowed me (somewhat timidly) to belay them as they scaled the mountain. They offered kind advice and without hesitation showed me the ropes—no pun intended—on the need-to-knows of climbing jargon, technique, and etiquette.
No sooner than Thursday, after a solid eight climbs under my belt, I truly felt a part of the group. It was like we were all strands, evenly valuable and evenly valued, in a tight-knit web of companionship. Whether I had known some individuals in our group for months or just 2 days—it didn’t matter. We were all there for one another to better and enlighten the human spirit through climbing and adventure.
Support was natural; sharing gear, food or water was simply implied and the friendship that grew from it all was endless. It was our lifestyle.
The days were long; they started early and ended late. Our hands were beaten and blistered from jamming them into sandy cracks hour after hour and toes ached from the incessant crunching of climbing shoes. But that didn’t stop the campfire banter. Our climbing adventures concluded with the rhythmic beating of “Dan” (my notorious hand drum), singing classic songs like, “Stand By Me”, and filling our faces with whatever came first—food or ice cold Coronas. We conversed about the day’s best climbs and read stories about household names like “Yabo” and “Bird’s Boys”.
I began to understand the novelty of the sport and the sheer magic in the dirtbag lifestyle. I found myself fantasizing about weekend trips to nearby climbing spots and ascending gnarly climbs with nothing but a chalk bag and taped fingers, but I also acknowledged my great admiration for hot showers and clean clothes.
Though I could never commit to being a female dirtbag, for the first time I finally understood the feverish passion that burns within climbers to be on the rock and test their limits. One could even say I felt it.
For me, Moab was not just a place that I’ll describe as my first climbing trip. It was an adventure that founded a story within that I’ll go on to share when I’m withered and wrinkled. It is a story that bestows a tale of human courage, passion and enlightenment through God’s magnificent playground.
Jazelyn Hoel is an NASM-certified personal trainer and 200-hour Yoga Alliance-certified instructor. She teaches several yoga classes at Mesa Rim.