Anthropology of a Rock Jock
Finger muscles slowly giving, sweat dripping from the forehead, eyes locked a foot away to the next hand move, Jonathan Brock, Unity College Junior, is in his happy place in complete zen. “Rock climbing is just a dance up the wall. Clearing your mind and letting your body take over.” Jon Brock says with fire in his eyes.
Rock Climbing culture is one of family. When this group of self proclaimed rock jocks heads to a cliff they might not know the person next to them, but they all live with climbing running wild through their veins. To make one look like a god of the rock or tales of tragedy and despair are embedded into the souls of the climbers and runs through their veins. Stories tend to be in the first person starting with I and have a heroic part about how they climbed and then they used hands and feet to show what they were doing.
Climbers use their hands to symbolize what the movement up the wall would look like. So if the movement used a lot of finger strength, climbers would represent this by putting their hand into a bend at all their knuckles and pull so hard on those muscles that you could see the veins and ligaments popping from the sun kissed, rock abused, chalk covered hands of theirs. These hand movements would then be accompanied by large movements in the legs and feet. By lifting the foot high resembles a large foot movement somewhere throughout the climb. By sticking the leg outwards then pulling the toes or heel in, that would tell another stone monkey that a movement in the sequence in the dance upon the ocean of the rock face would require a toe or heel hook.
These stories tend to be blown up to seem to be such great victories and stretch the truth of what happened. Climbers’ war stories are told almost always in the first person point of view and have hundreds of tiny details that, if they were left out, the story still could have gotten the message to the simple mind of the other climber. Heroic stories include words such as flashed, on-sight and red point.
When the climbers share their tall tales of combat they see themselves as rock gods, or kings of the stone. Their ego is enlarged by the story and it grows just like Pinocchio’s nose the more and more they tell the story and the bigger the tales.
A close knit family is usually a fairy tale only seen on TV or movies, that is unreachable like a short person trying to get the cereal upon the top shelf. Maybe this is just a side effect of the media telling us what a close knit family is, but to see a group of odd ball misfits make the perfect family is a spectacle that not many can believe they will ever see. “Friends become family on the wall!” These six words tattooed upon an old sun bleached Petzl helmet owned by a climber. Six words with so much power to represent this defined group.
This culture of gentle-hearted rock warriors come to each others aid often, even if they are strangers, arch rivals, or don’t speak in the same tongue. To the group, none of that really matters. Through my followings of the dirt bag sailors of the rock ocean, I have learned that they are a different breed cut from the dirt covered, oil stained corner of the same cloth. Go out to the slack line with a climber and you will see how fast you will be stitched into the tattered family they have made. We might not be just like them or understand them but they are still people and perform basic needs of communication to relay extravagant short stories proclaiming their god like climbing status. They care for each other like family and are committed in the relationship they build between other climbers.