Scott Semple enjoys watching the birds below him while he sits atop a mountain enjoying lunch.
As an ice and rock climber, Semple has often experienced this scene, a luxury that comes at the price of actually climbing the side of a mountain with only the aid of special shoes and a thin rope.
³Some of the best parts of climbing are being on the wall and seeing the trees below you or when you can push through to a new level, that's always a good thing too,² says Semple, who is from Regina, but now lives in Canmore, Alberta.
Semple said that climbing is more than the scenery or the competition of getting to the top; he enjoys the physical action of climbing. He says the gymnastic and technical aspect is both challenging and exhilarating.
³Climbing is more technique than strength. Arnold Schwarzenegger has lots of strength, but he doesnıt have technique. Climbing is 90 per cent mental.²
Semple talked about how important climbers have mental strength to succeed. Within the climbing lingo, to be ³sketched² or ³gripped² means to be scared or insecure. Sometimes people are fearful while they are on a climb, and so they back down. Semple said that this repertoire of fear and challenge can give you experience and help you with other climbs. Thereıs no denying that a confident climber has a better chance at accelerating skill level than one who is not confident. In climbing, developing confidence is key, says Semple.
However, this doesnıt mean that climbers are amazing fearless super-humans who give no thought for danger. The fear is definitely an element and something that needs to be dealt with.
Semple says that when we are children we have an absence of fearweıll climb and fall down, more times than we can count. But when we start communicating, fear is programmed into us and so we fear heights, falling, and other things our parents continually warn us about.
³When youıre up high and the only thing separating you from the ground beneath you is a thin rope, you have a fear of falling. But itıs not based in logic. The rope is strong enough to support thousands of pounds. Itıs an emotion. In order to climb you have to trust in the strength and integrity of your safety systems,² says Semple.
Two and a half years ago Semple had his first taste of climbing during a three and half month trip to the U.S.
³We followed the sun south and climbed all over the place. I never wanted to be anywhere else. Thatıs when I started climbing more seriously,² says Semple.
Because climbers do not need special certification to climb, Semple went to a climbing gym and singled out the most adept climber, Erich Shellhammer, who is also an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Human Justice at the University of Regina, to show him the ropes, so to speak.
Semple defines himself as a beginner, though heıs climbed impressive rock faces and frozen waterfalls. As such, along with many other avid climbers, he goes through a cycle of working for a few months to finance his months of climbing.
At one time, Semple would take weekend trips, usually driving for nine hours, to get a taste of climbing before continuing with another week of work.
Semple explains that some people see mountain climbing as an enjoyable hobby, for others, it's much more than that.
"In the Banff area, you come across a lot of people and their climbing or their skiing is the number one thing. And they don't see themselves as a retail store worker. They see themselves as an ice climber who is working here so he can go ice climbing more. Their self-perception is not that of an engineer or computer analyst or whatever. They've identified themselves as climbers."
For the people in Saskatchewan, mountains are non-existent. They have to find their challenges in other provinces.
³Sometimes the local folk [of Canmore] would look at us funny, coming up all the way from Saskatchewan, just for a week-end of climbing. I realized that it just made more sense to live there,² said Semple. "But there are competent climbers who live and work in Saskatchewan and make time to climb when they can."
Dr. Marion Jones, an Economics professor at the U of R, and also one of Semple's climbing partners, is one such person.
"When I was doing my Ph.D. in England, my fiancee at the time introduced me to it," says Dr. Jones.
Her climbing experience now spans the Rockies and the Himalayas, after she spent some time in China, studying her economic specialty, the Chinese economy.
Though there are many female climbers, there are far more male climbers, due to the fact that climbing has traditionally been a strong boys club, says Dr. Jones.
However, she said that a lot of the best climbers in the world, such as Lynn Hill, are women.
Dr. Jones says that women can become discouraged when they start out in a climbing gym because much of gym climbing is centered on upper body strength; however, she said that once on the rock, out in the environment, women are as good as men.
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