Thanks, Climbing…


A bunch of my friends are heading south for Creeksgiving. If you haven’t heard of Creeksgiving, it’s a Thanksgiving spent in the desert-crack-climbing capital of the world, Indian Creek. My friends didn’t make up the term—climbers have apparently been celebrating Creeksgiving for years. From across the country they come. Some dig a pit in the ground and slow-cook their food all day while they’re out dangling from fist jams. Others drive into town and pick up rotisserie chickens and the like. My friend Rick recounts using an Orion Cooker to convection-roast a turkey one year.

Your average American might find it a peculiar variation on the holiday—one spent in nature rather than dining rooms and dens; with climbing buddies instead of uncles and aunts; actually engaging in athletic activity rather than watching it on TV—but that doesn’t make it any less an occasion for celebration. Here, underneath the naked stars, with abraded hands salved with turkey fat and illuminated by campfires built to counter the desert night’s chill, climbers give thanks for the endless array of fine-grained fissures seemingly custom cut for us.

I won’t be heading to Creeksgiving this year, but my friends’ stories got me thinking of the many things climbing has given me that I’m thankful for. For example, the old bearded guys at the American Youth Hostels climbing wall Ohio who gave me, at age twelve, sufficient encouragement to spark a lifelong passion.

Also, I’m thankful for Alexis and Carrie, who took a chance by opening a climbing gym in the Midwest in the 1990s, when gyms weren’t really big yet, and who took a chance on me as an early employee when I was just a pain-in-the ass gumby kid.

I’m thankful for Keith and Derrick, who took me out for my first sport leads in the Red River Gorge.

I’m thankful for that time I accused a kid in one of my college classes of stealing my Prana hoody. When it turned out to be his hoody after all, he asked if I climbed, too. More specifically, I’m thankful for the many long, philosophical conversations, enjoyed while walking the Gunks’ Carriage Road, that would follow.

I must give thanks for the string of climbing gym jobs and the people I met during them: physicists and filmmakers, accountants and vagabonds. More thanks for the jobs in the outdoor industry.

I’m thankful for places climbing has brought me: Australia and Kentucky, New Hampshire and China, Mexico and Alabama, California and France. For the experiences in those places that no tourist with a suitcase and a Fodor’s guide ever would have found.

Thanks for deep-water soloing off a pontoon boat full of friends on Summersville Lake, West Virginia. (Even with the bout of food poisoning that had us all swimming for shore much of the day.)

Grazie to the Italian climber who, after nothing more than a few emails, picked me up at the train station in Sienna and took me to a bakery in some ancient mountaintop town and then to a secret bouldering spot he’d developed in a distant wood.

How could I forget the kangaroos and wallabies of the Stapylton Campground, in the Grampians, and for the climber there who, after bouldering with me for a few days, gave me the key to his house in Sydney and said, “Make yourself at home and leave the key in the mailbox when you go.”

I thank the universe for the soft catches and solid spots, for a cooler full of beers after an epic day, for the sun’s warmth on a winter afternoon, and for the rest jug that comes when you’re just about out of juice.

…For unexpected adventures and the expected ones.

…For the food stash that the couple at the end of their road trip gifted you at the beginning of yours.

…For feelin’ the flow.

…For that helmet that took the hit like a champ.

…For sending temps.

…For mentors.

…For shoes at just the right stage of broken in.

…For good beta and great belayers.

…For those road trips when shuffle picks all the right songs.

…For a well-placed cairn and the stone shaped just for sitting.

…For guidebook authors and area developers.

…For local climbing organizations.

…For sandstone, limestone, granite, and gneiss.

…For Miguel’s Pizza.

…For sending. Or for not caring that you didn’t send.

…For backyard crags.

…For search and rescue.

…For places where you can’t hear a single car.

…For the moose on the trail.

…For clean falls.

…For this climb and the next one…

What are you thankful for?


*P.S. — Thanks for reading.



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Justin Roth

A busy mind that aspires to be still.

6 thoughts on “Thanks, Climbing…”

  1. Well said. You forgot one thing though, all those dedicated manufacturers out there making gear we can trust our life with. Here’s to picking the right piece of pro first time, every time. Here’s to introducing a friend to climbing for the first time and sharing their stoke. Here’s to feeling psyched for all climbers, including the top ropers. To new ropes and old leather belay gloves. To climbing without checking the guidebook or the grade. To the local legends and lore that get passed around the campfires and crags. To climbing partners new and old. To climbing.

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