Big vs Little

At school I was taller than the other kids. In class photos it looked pretty weird; everyone was about the same height standing in tidy rows, then there was me, towering above. I figured I’d be tall forever.

What I forgot to consider was I’d been held back twice (bilingual, not stupid…) so really I was just ahead in the growing game. By highschool, everyone else was catching up, and now I stand at 5″6 (and a half), just above average… probably because my neck is unusually long.

As a climber – 5″6 and female – I have some convenient excuses to hide behind, the favourite of these being, ‘I can’t reach!‘ Who can argue with that?

The ladies working out how to reach the final hold on La Marie Rose, 6a, Font. Alex made it look so easy!

Then I went climbing with Alex. He’s 6″4′, stronger, younger and braver than me. Inspiring… annoying sometimes. When I first started climbing with him I felt sorry for myself. I used to think I was quite good, sticking to crimpy, sequencey routes all the time, and now here I was being dragged out bouldering, constantly trying and failing to keep up. Alex enjoyed a totally different kind of climbing than I was used to and I felt like a beginner again. Out of frustration, I started using my excuses more frequently, pardoning myself for failing or not even trying.

But gradually my self-pity turned to determination – ‘I will not be left behind anymore!

I started trying to copy moves Alex and our other tall friends easily pulled off, moves I’d always thought were too big for me. It was time to embrace the dyno, enjoy the throw, savour the cut-loose! While there are some routes and problems Alex can do that I just can’t yet, I started to realise that in most cases I just have to climb them differently. I had to remember it’s ok to take fifty extra tries and take time to work out my own beta, the important thing is just getting there in the end. Opening my brain even just to the idea of dynamic climbing revealed a new world to me.

What Alex did in 6 moves, I did in 10. Just one of many problems we climb completely differently. Easy in an Easy Chair, V4, Squamish BC.
Super long legs. And an ape index of +8!!!
Lanking at its finest.

Lynne Hill and Beth Rodden are 5″1′ and they out climb pretty much everyone on the planet. Height, I’ve learned, is something to use to your advantage, and it always has its advantages. While Alex can reach past certain cruxes, other moves he struggles with are sometimes easy for me because I can get my foot higher than his loooong leg will allow.

I’ve promised myself never to use my height as a reason for failing again. A lack of it might make some moves harder, but there’s always more than one way to get to the top.

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