Adventure of the Week: Ambition taken to a whole new level |

Adventure of the Week: Ambition taken to a whole new level

Reporter Audrey Dwyer stands at the top of Bob Grey Tower.
Audrey Dwyer

What I learned

• If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. • It’s all in the legs (I will never forget this tip). With climbing, we think a majority of the skill comes from the upper body, and a lot of the strength does, but the legs are the powerhouse that help get you to the top. • Trust your partner. Literally, my life was in McGarity’s hands and his was in mine. In order to succeed at climbing, you have to establish clear communication and positive encouragement. • Don’t give up. Like in life, when things get tough, it’s easier to think of ways to get out of a situation or make up excuses to justify why giving up would be the best option. This experience taught me to not give up but to take a deep breath and trust that I could get up the wall. • It’s not always getting to the top that is the most important thing, it’s how you get there.

— Rock climbing is no small feat; it’s an undertaking.

One that takes ambition, fearlessness and commitment to a whole new level.

Seth Godin, an American author, entrepreneur, marketer and public speaker, once said, “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

Rock climbing in Steamboat never really crossed my mind because I had no inclination of where to go nor did I know there was a thriving climbing culture here.

It was one of those things that the ambitious part of me always had wanted to try but was too scared to actually do.

When a friend of mine mentioned his connection to the climbing community here, the journalist in me was curious.

“There is a lot of development going on constantly here,” said Kevin McGarity, who has learned from other experienced climbers in the community throughout his four years living in Steamboat and who also is a climbing guide for Rocky Mountain Ventures. “There is an increasing number of people here excited about climbing. There is not a lack of climbing here, just a lack of information about it.”

Rocky Mountain Ventures, started by Patrick Meyer, takes climbers out to permitted areas in the summer and winter within the Routt National Forest. He and a few guides such as McGarity teach techniques of top rope, multipitch climbs, ice climbing, bouldering and more.

“There are so many things I love about climbing,” he said about his passion for the sport. “You gain a ton of new, long-lasting friendships and have the ability to just clear your mind. There are so many new places that you can experience in ways that not many people have the opportunity to.”

On Monday afternoon, I agreed to go climbing with McGarity and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Upon our arrival at what is known as the Bob Grey Tower, over on Muddy Creek near Rabbit Ears Pass, I got the rundown of how we actually were going to climb up this beast of rock.

Let’s keep in mind I only had climbed indoors — this was entirely different.

We did a traditional multipitch trad climb, meaning the leader ascends a pitch to an anchor point to belay the second person up. The stops between the belay stations are called a pitch. The normal length of a pitch is from ledge to ledge, and the pitch ends where there is a comfortable spot to belay. The purpose of these stops is to allow the second climber to be belayed by the leader while collecting the protective cams (short for Camalot, a spring-loaded device that is used in cracks within the rock to secure ropes while climbing) along the way up. After the first pitch, I was anchored to a ledge belaying McGarity as he went up the second pitch.

With multipitch climbing, it’s not as straightforward and easy as top rope climbing. There are multiple factors to consider, such as making anchors, belaying from above and managing the rope. Top rope climbing is a style in which a rope runs from a belayer at the foot of a route through one or more carabiners that is connected to an anchor system near the top of the route and back down to the climber. It’s the commonly used style found at indoor climbing walls.

Imagine, if you will, a ledge hundreds of feet up the face of this rock wall, and you are anchored in by cams, carabiners and rope.

Yes, it sounds scary and insane, but somehow I wasn’t scared of the height or the fact that I could fall hundreds of feet to my death.

Not only were we ascending with a multipitch route, we were doing off-width climbing toward the top.

“It’s larger cracks, smaller than a chimney but bigger than your fist, that you jam your body into to ascend the climb,” McGarity said about one of the most physically demanding styles of climbing that not many people enjoy due to the pain and brutality that results from it.

To classify the rock we were climbing is determined by the incline of the ground and the steepness of the slope we climbed on. It was a fifth-class climb, and most people climb in the wide range of 5.5c to 5.12c. If you are familiar with Alex Honnold and what he free solos, those structures are classified as 5.12c or 5.13c.

After getting a crash course about the equipment and our plan of action for the climb, it was time to latch on my helmet, tie my shoes and triple-check my harness.

At 6-foot-something, McGarity made it look way too easy. He scaled up the wall with ease in almost no time. I’ll be honest, when it was my turn to climb, I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was.

There was a definite point when I wanted to give up and rappel down.

It turns out you learn a lot about yourself when faced with a challenge that requires physical and mental strength.

Once at the top, the adrenaline rush was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was happily exhausted and worn out. I wasn’t even fazed by the newly acquired cuts and bruises that covered my arms and legs.

For that moment, I forgot about everything and was fully aware of the immense beauty from the endless combination of mountain and sky as the sun began to set.

It was in that moment that I realized, you never really know what you are made of until you push yourself and test your limits.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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