For many climbers, the passion for scaling rock faces and conquering summits goes beyond a hobby – it becomes a defining part of their identity and lifestyle. However, living fully for climbing also requires balancing that passion with responsibilities to family, career, and financial stability. This article explores how climbers can integrate their passion for the mountains into a well-rounded lifestyle.
The Allure of a Climbing Lifestyle
For those deeply drawn to climbing, the idea of a lifestyle centered around the sport can be intensely appealing. Key aspects that draw climbers to this type of lifestyle include:
- Freedom to pursue climbing objectives whenever conditions allow, without being tied down to a 9-5 job or other commitments
- Traveling to new climbing destinations around the world, constantly experiencing novel environments and challenges
- Deep connection to nature and sense of personal growth achieved through overcoming challenges in the mountains
- Sense of community and camaraderie found amongst other climbers sharing the same passion
However, fully embracing this type of climbing-centric lifestyle without balance can also bring challenges.
Challenges of the Climbing Lifestyle
While the allure is strong, living solely for climbing also requires sacrificing other important aspects of a well-rounded life:
- Financial instability without a traditional career, relying on sponsorships, grants or odd jobs
- Lack of benefits like health insurance or retirement savings
- Missing important family and social commitments due to frequent travel
- Physical and mental burnout from an over-focused lifestyle without balance
- Inability to settle down in one place, purchase a home, start a family, etc.
Fully embracing the climbing lifestyle also isn’t sustainable for most in the long-run. Balancing passion and responsibility is key to an integrated approach.
Integrating Climbing and Responsibility
With creativity and balance, it is possible to integrate climbing passion into a lifestyle that also supports responsibilities. Here are some approaches climbers use:
- Pursue a career with flexibility like remote work, freelancing, or being a climbing coach/guide to allow time in the mountains
- Live in an area with world-class climbing close to home to minimize travel needs
- Plan climbs strategically around work/family schedules instead of chasing objectives constantly
- Save aggressively when not traveling to fund goal climbs and create a financial cushion
- Prioritize family/social commitments on evenings and weekends even when in climbing areas
- Pace yourself to avoid burnout – climbing is a long-term passion, not a short-term sprint
With discipline and balance, climbers can integrate their passion into a lifestyle that also supports responsibilities over the long haul.
Case Studies of Balanced Climbing Lives
Here are a few examples of climbers who have found ways to balance a passion for climbing with other responsibilities in sustainable ways:
Beth Rodden – Teacher, Coach and Guide
As a teacher on semester breaks and summer vacations, Beth is able to travel the world climbing for months at a time. During the school year she works as a climbing coach and guide in her hometown, integrating her passion into her career. On weekends she prioritizes family time over climbing.
Alex Honnold – Sponsored Athlete and Filmmaker
While sponsorship income and film projects allow Alex flexibility to pursue big wall free solos, he is intentional about pacing himself, avoiding burnout. He lives simply without excess commitments to allow focus on climbing but also dedicates time to causes important to him like environmentalism.
Mark and Angela Saunders – Climbing Bloggers and Authors
Through their climbing blog, books, and online programs, the Saunders generate income remotely to travel and climb. Based in Bishop, California with world-class climbing out their door, they are able to pursue a passion project as a career while still settling down in one place.
Through varied approaches, each of these climbers has found ways to integrate their passion for climbing into a balanced and sustainable lifestyle that also supports responsibilities and long-term well-being.
Conclusion: Balance is Key
For passionate climbers, balancing the allure of a climbing-focused lifestyle with responsibilities can feel like navigating two opposing forces. However, with creativity and discipline, it is very possible to integrate climbing passion into a full and balanced life. The keys are strategic planning to minimize sacrifices in other areas, pacing oneself to avoid burnout, and prioritizing commitments outside of climbing as well. For climbers seeking to pursue their passion not just as a hobby but as a long-term way of life, balance is essential to sustainable happiness and well-being.