As a professional climber, I’ve avoided weekends when the roads were full of traffic and the crags were littered with people. Saturday and Sunday have always been, by choice, my rest days. It worked out perfectly. I climbed during the week with other abnormal people (e.g., professional climbers or vacationers) and lived in a lovely little bubble.
During those years, it never occurred to me how few weekend warriors I actually knew or interacted with. Then I met Randy, my husband, a bonafide working man with a commute to an actual job in an office. He was a real life weekend warrior, albeit a weekend warrior who was establishing double-digit boulders from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. Still, he had co-workers (you mean climbing partners?), a commute (is that like an approach?), and vacation days (what’s that?). I miss vacations to be honest, I would love to go on one. There are so many places that I would like to visit as well. A friend of mine recently came back from a vacation and they stayed in the InterContinental New Orleans hotel and I have to say I was a bit jealous that they had the time to do this. How on earth these people have time is beyond me. The fact that Randy can do all of this still surprises me.
I protested all of this at first. I didn’t understand why Randy couldn’t just drop everything and join me in Yosemite when the crowds were thin and the conditions were good. I fought his schedule with all of my might. I tried to get him to work four really long days so he could take a Wednesday off. I encouraged him to get to work at 4 a.m. on Fridays so we could have a few uncrowded hours at the crag in the afternoon. I did everything and anything I could to avoid climbing on the dreaded crowded Saturday and Sunday.
There are so many battles you can wage, however, so I finally relented, sat back and accepted it. I could either climb alone or with random people, or I could get over my fear of the weekend in order to climb with my favorite person. I sighed. I guess I’ll be a weekend warrior now, too.
At first, I had no idea what that really meant. I started basing more and more out of the Bay Area and got a crash course into commuting to the crag. On my first foray into weekend warrioring, I was shocked by how many people are also weekend warriors. I couldn’t believe how many people were out climbing-droves of them!
The sheer logistics that all of these people (including me) had overcome in order to find themselves climbing come Saturday morning was impressive to me. I spent Friday night scrambling together all of our camping stuff, climbing gear, food, and rain gear just in case. I was childless and dogless at the time, but others probably had to wrangle a kid and find a dog sitter. Randy is a night owl, he preferred to leave after traffic at 9pm and drive until the early morning hours (this gave me a few hours of sleep in the passenger seat). Not only did it allow me to get some much-needed rest, but it was probably also the safest option. During the late afternoons and early evenings, everyone is in a rush to get home and so they are more likely to be driving way over the speed limit. This is really dangerous, and if they get caught, they may have to attend a traffic school in their area to relearn the basic skills of driving, as well as having the opportunity to avoid having points added to their license. If you ask me, I couldn’t think of a worse way to start the weekend, and I’m glad that Randy suggested that we go a bit later, so that the roads would be quieter and he wouldn’t be persuaded into copying the driving habits of other people. I would rather spend a couple of hours driving into the early morning if it meant we were safe. Others got an alpine start, driving four or five hours to reach some popular climbing area like Yosemite. Bleary eyed, we arrived with everyone else at the crag late Saturday morning. People didn’t seem to show their sleep deprivation and climbed all day among the crowds, not complain at all, camp out and have the best time ever, climb a bit the next day, then sit in traffic all the way home, arriving home super late. Everyone probably got a scant five or six hours of sleep that night, then had to get to the offices early Monday morning. I wasn’t a real weekend warrior since I could walk around like a zombie for half of Monday morning and unpack. I really struggle to get a good night’s sleep when I’m camping. My blow-up bed is so uncomfy so I don’t think that helps either! I’ve thought of contacting an RV Rental company but I haven’t got round to it yet. I think I’d enjoy these camping weekends much more if I got to sleep in an RV!
Forty, fifty, sixty hours of work-week later, they’d do it all again.
Over the next few weekends, I quickly realized that weekend warriors were maybe the most impressive sub-group of the climbing community I’d ever met. Chatting with others, exchanging stories about “normal” life stuff, and sharing food, I quickly became amazed and awed by a part of the climbing community I had never really encountered before. Weekend Warriors are kind, badass, and they are out there doing it because they love it.
When I started to learn what lengths Randy, his friends, and the other weekenders went through to climb during the week, too, I felt like I was slacking off. Not only did they work 8, 10, sometimes 12 hours a day, but they’d come home to eat a quick dinner then head to the gym to train twice a week.
Where do these people find all this energy?
Now that we are parents, I’m even more impressed with the weekend warrior family that fit it all in, weekend after weekend. Just packing for a climbing trip with young ones can drive anyone to the brink of giving up, spoken from first hand experience. Did I bring the correct toy? Do I have the right number or type of pants for them to wear while we are out? Did I bring enough food? Did I bring food they’ll actually eat?
Not to mention juggling nap times with your own climbing schedule, from warming up to actually giving a few good burns on the project. This in and of itself is exhausting.
I must say, I still love getting out and climbing during the week. Some habits die hard. But it feels a little like cheating now. I didn’t have to jump through all the hoops that I know most people do.
On the other hand, some of my favorite days now are on the weekends at the boulders when all of our friends are around. We are the definition of what my younger self used to avoid. We are a dozen adults with a half dozen stick-wielding kids running around and making a ruckus. There is inevitably one or two of us parents saying something like, “Let’s work on sharing … I’ll set a timer for when it’s your turn. … No it’s not your turn yet … Please don’t swallow that rock … ”
So … here’s a round of applause to all of those who work their butts off during the week, juggling work life, climbing life, family life, turn around on Friday night or Saturday morning to head up to the mountains to enjoy a couple days in the woods, and then head back to a week of trying to fit it all in again. Thanks for helping me see how beautiful climbing is. If you want to find the real soul of climbing, don’t look on your social media feed, go hang out with Weekend Warriors. To the great lengths people go to pursue this thing that we all love, to share some pitches, top out some boulders, try as hard as we can, sit around the campfire or camp stove and recall the stories of epics or triumphs. It’s a pretty great community we all belong to.