Climbing to new heights

Getting the hang of rock climbing


Used with permission from Cece Jensen.

Cece Jensen

My very first memory of rock climbing is rather unique. I was about six years old and my family and I had hiked to the top of Palisade Head along the North Shore. My mother had been rock climbing for 25 years at the time, and had every intention of lowering my siblings and I down the side of the cliff to get a taste of real rock climbing. 

It was my older brother’s turn first, but much to my mother’s chagrin, he was terrified, in tears and ended up chickening out. Next up was my older sister and coincidentally she backed out as well. As the last sibling standing, I rose to the challenge. I was determined to complete the climb in order to show that I was the bravest sibling but surprisingly, my mother got stuck on the wall. In an alarming situation, she ended up having to untie her rope and find an escape route off the side of the wall. She managed to return to safety, but we were all understandably quite rattled after this dangerous debacle and I never got to try the climb. 

One might think that an experience like this at such a young age might scare a child into never wanting to rock climb again, but ever since then I have been hooked. 

To me, climbing is not just a sport, but a lifestyle. I have found such joy and not to mention an extremely welcoming and friendly community. Specifically, during the COVID-19 quarantine period, climbing gave me something to look forward to and helped me stay active. Considering the fact that my mother is the one who introduced me to climbing, I have always found a sense of comfort and empowerment in the sport. 

This past summer, my mother and I went on two climbing trips. One to Jackson Falls, Illinois and the other to the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. These trips have given me some of the best memories of my entire life. We camped at campsites near the climbing and hiked to the climbing walls every morning. The feeling of being in nature while also doing what I love was simply unmatched. I met all sorts of new people who feel the same way as I do about climbing and I truly felt at home. 

Climbing inside is also a blast. I often find myself grinning from ear to ear on the car ride there. The environment is full of kindness and I frequently make friends with random climbers I meet at the gym. Using gyms to climb inside is a great way for me to train my skills and work on improving. 

Climbing is a fun way to use fear as your motivation. When you are at a tough spot on the climb, you have a unique opportunity to view falling as a way to keep going. Overcoming challenges like these keep me motivated to continue my journey as a climber.