Illustration Credit: Mountain Climbers by Andrea D'Aquino
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finally ’scending a climb that I have worked on for some time. The rush I get when my hands touch the top of the route can certainly be linked to an adrenaline surge, the feelings of victory rushing through me in that moment. But that’s not what drives me. What matters is that I feel so incredibly present and engaged with the world around me. The rock provides the way to the top but it is up to me, the climber, to figure out what the way is. To “’scend,” a climber must not just work with the rock but must also become absorbed by it. For me, this feeling resonates as a deep connection to all of nature.
Yet research in psychology typically sees participation in extreme sports as linked to a general affinity for risky behavior, coupled with a lack of thought for consequences. Those of us who pursue such sports are likened to drug addicts and gamblers because psychologists tend to concentrate on the brain chemistry produced by these types of activities, which is remarkably similar to that of addicts.
Yet such analysis ignores the lived experience of so many extrem …