Climbing, Risk and Motherhood: Guest Post by Cragmama

Today’s post is a guest post from Cragmama an amazing rock climber and mom to an adorable “Cragbaby.” Also an accomplished writer, she blogs about climbing and raising her son at (you guessed it!) Cragmama. Along with Velomom, Expect Adventure and me, Brave Ski Mom, Cragmama is one of the Adventure Moms. What’s an Adventure Mom? Stay tuned….

“Do you take less risks in climbing now that you’re a mom?”

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this since Cragbaby entered on the scene…well let’s face it, I wouldn’t be rich, but I would definitely be able to buy more $4 frappucinos at Starbucks! The funny thing is, I never really feel like I have a good answer for this question. I feel like the “correct” answer is, “Yes, the responsibility of raising a little person has made me less risky of a climber.” But if I’m being honest, I don’t really think much has changed with regards to my risk assessment. But before you start throwing stones, let me explain.

Having fun on Hit Man (5.11b) in Maple Canyon back in '08....

In a sport where certain mistakes can be fatal, no one can argue that rock climbing is a sport without risk. But with the advances in modern equipment, along with proper knowledge of that equipment’s uses and limitations, a lot of those risks can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

It’s not something I dwell on, but this concept of acceptable risk has been in the back of my mind ever since I started climbing, not just once my son came along. When my husband and I first started climbing in 2006, we had lots of discussions about risk and consequences. We made a pact that if either of us was ever in a situation where our risk of danger felt higher than what we were comfortable with, we would bail as quickly and as safely as we could, no matter how many thousands of dollars of gear we had to leave behind, or how close we were to the summit.

That hasn’t changed since Cragbaby came along.

....and a couple hours later in the Nephi Hospital (not having as much fun)

But enough about epic scenarios – what about everyday situations? As far as the spectrum of climbers goes, some would probably say we were more on the conservative side to begin with, so again – not much has changed.

My risk assessments pre-Cragbaby as wife, daughter, and friend are still right in line with where they are now as a climbing Mommy. I feel like my attitude can be for the most part be boiled down to one statement, and applied in different ways depending on particular situation.

BE OKAY WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF A FALL.

Different types of climbing have different fall consequences, so its important be aware of the risks involved with each. In toproping for example, your anchor is always above you, meaning that as long as your belayer is paying attention you won’t drop more than a few feet if you slip.  This is probably the safest type of climbing, but not very practical at the majority of cliffs, since you usually can’t just waltz up a set of stairs to the top of the cliff to set your anchor.

Most of the climbing that I do is referred to as “lead climbing”, which in short means that I start at the bottom tied into the rope, and clip into different points of protection on the way up – depending on the route it might have pre-drilled bolts for me to use as protection (sport climbing), or I might have to bring and place my own gear in the rock (traditional climbing).

Since you are often climbing above your anchor, a fall while lead climbing has the potential to be a lot longer than while toproping, and a smart leader needs to be able to assess the fall potential (would a fall land you on a ledge, pendulum you sideways into a rock face, etc).

Yeah, I’ve taken a few nasty falls while lead climbing, including one that landed me in the ER on our first day in Maple Canyon a couple of years ago. But it was a routine fall that I could take a million more times without incident – nothing “went wrong,” my belayer didn’t make a mistake…my knee was in the wrong place at the wrong time and bashed into a cobblestone that was jutting out from the rock. The consequences weren’t pleasant, but the experiences I had on that trip were well worth the stitches and brief weeks of physical setback.

When it comes to climbing, there are always factors that will be out of my control – holds can break, swarms of bees can attack…so no matter how easy the level of difficulty is on a route, I won’t ever climb a route without a rope (called free-soloing). Since I’m not okay with the fall consequences, it’s a no-brainer decision for me – not pre-Cragbaby, and certainly not now!

What a lot of non-climbers don’t think about when they ask me the “risk question” is that this concept of risk and consequences is not only applicable to climbing. I’d be willing to bet more than a few of my aforementioned $4 frappucinos that each and every one of us makes decisions based on risk every day, whether it be consciously or subconsciously.

When you’re running late do you give in to the temptation of driving too fast, risking an accident, or do you stay the speed limit and risk being late? How many of us think about the risks of getting on an airplane, swimming in the ocean, or not wearing sunscreen before we do it? Most people don’t think about the risks to these everyday activities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist!

Two of my reasons for analyzing risks so carefully! (Photo: Jan Balster)

So has my attitude about risk changed since Cragbaby entered the scene? Not really. Yes, he is one of God’s greatest gifts to me, but every member of my family is WAY more important to me than my climbing ever could be, so his arrival has merely solidified the attitude I already had on risk.

There are a lot of things about my life that I cannot control, but what I can do is evaluate my actions and choices, make sure that I can accept all possible outcomes of those choices, (both on and off the rock) – then commit to those choices wholeheartedly, and climb on!

 

© 2011, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.

Comments

  1. says

    Way to go Cragmama. I love your discussion regarding risk. Life is risky, for sure. Just because we engage in certain sports, who’s to say it’s any more dangerous than eating Cheetos on the couch? There’s a line of course. It wouldn’t be prudent for anyone–parent or not–to try a risky sport without the proper gear or training. But as long as you take proper precautions, then go for it. Keep hitting the high notes.