Written by Orri Gabbay

I only recently picked up rock climbing. I would say I gained my passion for climbing during the summer leading into my sophomore year at W&J College. At that point, I had recently been going through tremendous stressors, one specifically was heartbreak. We’ve all been there before: the aftermath isn’t pretty, and the journey of recovery is anything but pleasant. It was at my lowest that rock climbing found me. 

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I started out in an indoor gym in my hometown where I would spend hours trying to build the grip strength to hold on to credit card-thin slivers of rock. By the time winter break rolled around, I had spent around 42 hours a week for 6 weeks at the gym. I threw everything that had been eating me up onto the wall. My greatest distraction became my biggest teacher. What I learned was patience and to approach every problem with curiosity. If you went up to a climbing route in the gym with the mindset that you could never do it, then you failed yourself before you started. But most importantly, the constant self-reminder that I can do this and I have to get back up on the wall and be patient with the process was the ultimate lesson. 

Moving forward, during my spring semester (pre-covid) I had been given the opportunity to try rock climbing outside. It was 18 degrees and the wall itself felt more like 5 degrees. Regardless, I was there, and I had to give it a shot. The initial shock of holding the cold earth went away in about 10 seconds though due to the overwhelming rush of adrenaline present in my system.  And once I reached the top of the climb after several slips and falls, I had felt lighter. 

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 You see, that day felt like an end to a tribulation. After countless hours of physical and mental fatigue it was my time to put all that I absorbed out into the real world. All the grief, heartache, depression were my paints, and the rock became my canvas. I found a form of expression through the style and methodology I would go about to climb that I truly call it an art. That bitter cold lump of limestone was my shock absorber. It was what healed me back onto my two feet and got me ready to fulfill life with the pursuit of happiness. People describe a passion as something you love; I don’t believe that is true. I believe a passion is something that finds you when you’re lost, and, in return, you end up finding yourself through your passion. To W&J students reading this, I’ve got an extra pair of shoes and a harness. Don’t be a stranger!