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Life lessons learned in rock climbing


Posted: January 19, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 19, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Chris Quinn of Saugus rock climbing in Stoney Point Park in the San Fernando Valley. Chris Quinn of Saugus rock climbing in Stoney Point Park in the San Fernando Valley.
Chris Quinn of Saugus rock climbing in Stoney Point Park in the San Fernando Valley.


There is a lot to like about living here in Santa Clarita. For me, I like that Santa Clarita is an active community.

I have lived here for more than 25 years and it seems that everyone I meet is really into something - cycling, music, acting or art, coffee, wine, cigars or cars, volunteering, family camping, racing or fitness.

Myself, I always have, and likely always will, enjoy backpacking and rock climbing. My favorite places include the Sierras in California, the Cascades in Oregon and the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington.

Locally and as recently as this past week, I have been rock climbing here in Santa Clarita at a new indoor climbing gym called Top Out Climbing. I have also been going to a long-time local landmark of the San Fernando Valley called Stoney Point Park.

Climbing is like power-training and Yoga. Power-training is like climbing because you work out on a vertical wall instead of a horizontal floor; Yoga because balance and concentration are essential.

The gym I go to has Yoga training for climbers. Every part of your body gets a serious workout . . . back, butt, abs and arms. Heck, even your smile gets a workout!

I train at the indoor gym weekdays after work and take my workout to the outdoors for the real thing on weekends. The results are very clear and visible and almost immediate.

I lost weight, gained strength and definition, slept like a rock (pun intended) and overall, I calmed down a lot. I’m a lot healthier and happier fellow.

So, let me back up a little. I have always been drawn to the outdoors. I grew up around horses and broken down three-rail white fences, dogs, cats, ducks, geese, coyotes, cat tails, and red-winged blackbirds. I was always outside.

I finished high school and moved to the Oregon Cascades. I started backpacking with my new friends. It was good weather at first, but it wasn't long until the bad weather would keep us indoors.

Next came snow camping and technical mountaineering. My first peak was Mt. Saint Helens. We’d go mountaineering in the winter, with ropes and technical gear, and rock climbing in the spring.

After a few years of doing this, my friends and I had learned a lot. We were technically proficient, comfortable in the backcountry and confident that we could rely on our gear, each other and ourselves in difficult situations. We learned to plan. We learned to execute. Most importantly, we learned when to turn back and try again another day. It was all about safety and responsibility.

Another thing we began to realize was all that the outdoors was teaching us had been carrying over into our personal lives.

In the backcountry, high ground is good as it lets you see farther and get a better picture of your situation. And this gives one a better perspective of things that could have an immediate effect on the success of their efforts.

I don't think anyone would argue that a better perspective isn’t helpful at home and in the office as well. And that a little distance will often help give you that needed perspective.

On the mountain, you don't want to carry anything that you don't absolutely need, and you don't want to waste anything you did carry with you. This is all about planning and efficiency. This, without doubt, is also important in business and at home.

And then, probably most important on every trip, is to know when to turn back. In 20/20 hindsight, there were many times we found that if we had turned around sooner, we wouldn't have needed to leave gear behind so we could literally run back down the trail.

We had learned to admit that we didn't plan well enough, that we weren't paying attention to the obvious signs and signals, or see the obvious dangers coming right at us. We learned that being wrong is not as bad as not admitting that you are wrong when you know you are.

After practicing this a lot out on the trail with my backcountry pals, I too find that saying I'm sorry to my friends and family was getting easier and that my apologies were . . . real.

So, okay, what is my point here? Simple! Being active is a huge part of who I am. I truly love doing things. It makes me happy. It makes me healthy.

And I think I see all of this in so many people who live in Santa Clarita. The people here all seem to have a passion for something that they can't quite satisfy. And if they are getting the same kind of reward from whatever passion they have, that I get from climbing and packing, then that would explain a lot about Santa Clarita.


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