Posts

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

It was a rough morning…

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

It was a rough morning climbing.

I woke up really excited to climb and we hiked down to a well know crag in Meir Valley at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to set up shop for the morning.

It was beautiful. You had to walk through an archway of a huge boulder which took us to our private oasis of climbing perched high on top of a hillside.

I started with a couple of easier climbs which turned out to be a blast. Both of them followed a great line to the top and were perfect warm-ups.

I then decided to attempt a couple of the tougher climbs.

The first one I tried was well within my range but I hit a sticking point which really frustrated me. I started blaming the rock (Crazy, I know). I then started blaming the people who put the bolts in that I needed to attach my rope to.

After much blaming, I finally had to come to the conclusion I just didn’t have it. I finally begrudgingly finished the route after a lot of struggle but I had some assistance so it didn’t feel like much of a victory.

I then decided to redeem myself on a slightly harder route on the same wall. I made it to the first bolt but could not figure out how to get to the second bolt so I had to bail and get lowered down without completing the route. It was the first route I have tried in the last couple of months that I couldn’t finish and gave up on.

That is either a testament to my willpower and tenacity in choosing to not give up or the fact that I am just not challenging myself enough. I’ll leave the judgment up to you.

Anyway, I was looking forward to getting out of that area and meeting friends of ours at a very sought after area of Meir Valley called Bruise Brothers.

It is a beautiful wall with some amazing lines.

I started on some easier routes and then decided to step up to some harder stuff. After the struggles I had on the previous wall earlier in the day I was resolved to just stick to the easier stuff but I saw a route I just couldn’t say no to.

It started out with some technical moves and then moved to an overhang with some big moves and had a great finish. I got up with no problem and started to build my confidence again.

The next one I wanted to do looked amazing but was at the peak of my ability. I’ll be honest I was scared to get on the wall. It was a huge climb with only a little crack to use about 40 feet off the ground.

Fortunately, another couple of climbers decided to do it before us. It was probably a bit of a false sense of confidence because he was a much better climber than I was and made it look way too easier.

Either way, I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, I made it without too much effort.

I was re-energized and wanted to test my limits for the last climb.

We shifted over to a really interesting climb.

The first part starts off as a fairly easy climb straight up the wall. At least it should have been easy but ended up feeling much harder than it should have been.

The next part is a giant overhanging roof about 30 feet off the ground that you have to climb horizontal to the ground below you and then over the top for the finish.

I resolved that I was going to have to take a couple of falls but there was no way I was going to give up on this.

What’s funny is a friend of mine completed the route just before me and still had his friend’s gear up there. His friend shouted at him to take his gear back down and put the rope directly through the anchors just in case I didn’t finish it.

Reflexively I shouted, “Leave it up there. I’m finishing it and I’ll bring it back down.” It was my little version of the “burning the boats” story where retreat and failure were not an option. I was going to finish this no matter what.

As I reached the top of the first part of the climb, I leaned back and peered over my head.

Doubts started to set in. It looked a lot harder up close than it did from the ground.

But there was no giving up. Remember, I told him to leave his gear at the top. I had to finish this climb now.

I decided to take it one bolt at a time; total presence.

There were 3 bolts and a finishing anchor.

I grabbed onto the first part of the roof, leaned back, and brought my feet a bit higher. A quick draw was within reach so I reached down, grabbed the rope, and clipped it in the carabiner.

One down, three to go.

I reached up to the next part of the roof, heel hooked the other part of the roof, and saw the next quick draw was within reach. I slowed my breath, relaxed my body, reached down, grabbed the rope, and slowly and methodically placed it in the next carabiner.

Two down and two to go.

The next one was a huge reach. I searched for a moment, found a decent hold, grabbed it, got my legs up and clipped in. I looked up and found the anchor just a short easy climb away.

I was so focused and so present that I was surprised the finish was right in front of me.

A wave of emotion and a tremendous sense of accomplishment came over me as I clipped into the final anchor.

It is easy to live life in the middle where there is no true sense of accomplishment but also no real risk of failure. It is easy to play it safe.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it is worth it to burn the boats and destroy the bridges so failure is not an option and there is a point of no return.

That is really when we are tested. That is where the sweetest juice of life can be found.

– Matt Westheimer

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 9.06.19 AM

No Regrets

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 9.06.19 AM

It has been 77 days since I parted ways with my chiropractic practice to pursue a dream of traveling around the world.

Currently, I am sitting in a giant metal tube 40,000 feet in the air on my way to NYC. I can’t believe I have been traveling for 2.5 months so far. Some days feel much longer than others, but overall the experience has flown by.

We have experienced some pretty amazing things so far and encountered some really frustrating challenges.

The highlight of the trip has definitely been rock climbing. We developed a passion for climbing that exceeded my expectations, but I am certainly leaning into the feeling and looking for ways to explore the world with a rope and a harness.

We have met extraordinary people from all over the world. We have stayed at five star hotels and no star shacks. We have had some expensive food and $1 street food. We have met some of the nicest people on the planet and encountered some of the rudest and most frustrating.

We’ve had things stolen and lost but more than made up for it with the generosity of people and experiences along the way.

Being away for so long and living out of a suitcase really puts things in perspective and makes me grateful for some of the simple things in life like a good home cooked steak and a decent pillow.

Man, I never appreciated a decent pillow until now.

I realize that we only get one life to live and living in fear is no way to live it. Life passes you by way too quickly.

I have been meeting many travelers along this journey that are in their early to mid 20s and just working and traveling around the world. They are living day to day and traveling until their money runs out. Then they go back to work until they have enough money to travel again.

There is such a freedom in that. To get on the road with nothing to lose and experience the rawness of what the world has to offer.

There are times when I question my decision to travel. Of course, it would have been more prudent to continue working, but being prudent isn’t always memorable. Being prudent doesn’t always create exceptional experiences. Being prudent doesn’t always build lifelong relationships.

Sometimes it’s important to throw prudence out the window, take big risks, and follow your passion.

One of my favorites quotes that exemplifies this idea is “You’ll regret more the things you did not do than the ones you decided to do.”

Stop always being so prudent, go against the grain, and do something you’ve always wanted to do.

My philosophy more and more is evolving into the idea that there are only 2 types of experiences: extraordinary ones that feel amazing and ones that are crap but make for great stories.

Go out and make both.

– Matt Westheimer

Cat Ba, Vietnam

The Struggle is Real

Cat Ba, Vietnam

Cat Ba, Vietnam

We are hanging 120 feet off the ground from an overhanging roof on the side of a mountain protected only by a harness that we clipped into 2 titanium bolts drilled into the roof.

Our legs are dangling underneath us are starting to lose feeling and go numb from the pressure of the harness’s leg straps. As we reach up to change our gear and prepare to repel ourselves down the side of the cliff, the harness digs in deeper into our inner thigh and cuts off more and more feeling. We have no choice. We have to keep going.

Many times throughout our week of rock climbing I found myself vacillating between moments of intense elation and extreme frustration.

Almost Giving Up

After “onsighting” (a term used for going up a route the first time without falling or stopping) a couple of challenging routes, I found myself in a euphoric state of accomplishment. This was coupled with a future route that should have been a cake walk in which I found myself almost giving up on due to the frustration of not being able to get past a certain point.

Truth be told I actually did give up on it. I got lowered back down, but in a moment of persistence and courageousness, I decided to not give up and gave it another go.

This time I made it.

I was really close to giving up, but I am glad I didn’t.

Great Metaphor For Life

I love rock climbing as a metaphor for life.

Things are going to be really hard at times. Things in life are going to be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful. It’s important to keep going.

Sometimes you are going to want to give up – especially when no one is looking. It is in these moments of deciding whether to give up or not that your character is truly tested.

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

A great way to practice this is to put yourselves in situations where giving up is not an option.

I do that by putting myself in a position where I am hanging from a mountain 120 feet off the ground. Your way might be a bit different.

Either way, find your 120-foot cliff.

Sincerely,

Matt Westheimer

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 1.12.57 PM

Everyday Heroes in Thailand

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 1.12.57 PM

Railay, Thailand

Many times we can find everyday heroes all around us.

I witnessed a hero in action the other day.

We just arrived in Railay, Thailand a few days ago for a week of rock climbing.

The setting is extraordinary. Giant limestone walls overlooking the ocean are views that you’d think you can only find in the movies. It is the type of beauty that only mother nature could create.

The variety of climbing here is incredibly vast. They have everything from beginner routes to expert level. There are short climbs of 6-8 meters all the way to 100m+ multi-pitch routes.

One of our favorite areas to climb is a place called the Diamond Wall. It is a site perched on top of a hill with amazing views and great routes. There is also a hand ground organic coffee place on site which is an added bonus for coffee lovers like us!

It was our second day climbing at the wall when I witnessed something scary and inspiring at the same.

When you climb the walls in Railay, it is not compulsory to hire a guide. It is open and free to the public. As long as you know what you are doing and have your own gear, you are free to climb on your own. Most people, including us, hire a guide to make sure we are safe and help us navigate the walls better.

On this one particular morning, there was a duo there who were on their own.

From the moment I saw the climber on the wall, I knew they were people I needed to stay far away from.

The way climbing works is you have a climber who is attached to a rope, you have another person called the belayer who is attached to the other end of the rope. As the climber ascends the wall, he clips his rope to the wall to protect himself if he falls. If he falls, the belayer is there to hold the rope and keep him safe. At least, that is the idea granted that both parties know what they are doing.

This party did not.

You could tell from the beginning the climber did not know what he was doing. After he got about half way up the wall, it was very apparent that he was in serious danger. I only realized that because I heard one of the local guides frantically trying to tell the belayer he needs to take better care of his climber.

At this point, everyone around was concerned. The climber was stuck on the wall in a dangerous position. The belayer either didn’t seem to care or was ignorant to the fact that something was wrong, and he would not listen to the guide who was trying to help. Not only would he not listen, but he was being rude and condescending to the guide.

Here is the thing. The guide was getting paid to work with another group. He had no allegiance or direct responsibility to put himself in a position to get ridiculed and yelled at.

So why did he do it? Because it was the right thing to do.

Not only that, but he wouldn’t back down.

He took a stand for the climber on the wall no matter what.

He put his feelings and his ego aside because helping another individual was more important than staying comfortable and quiet.

Moments later, he threw on his harness, attached himself to a rope, and literally ran up the wall barefoot to rescue the climber that was in a really tough spot.

This man was certainly a hero.

It was a great reminder that we must stand up for what is right, not just what is easy.

It was a reminder that we must be courageous, even if it means we might be judged or ridiculed.

It was also a great reminder even though we may not think people are looking at us, they are. It is important we always act with integrity and set a good example for other people to follow.

Thank you, Mr. Climbing Instructor for demonstrating such courage out there on the wall.

People were watching, and you inspired all of us.

- Matt Westheimer