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Current News: Link School Wraps up Year 5

My Experience Climbing, by Suzannah Guthrie

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For most seventeen-year-olds, climbing is not at the forefront of their thought. Usually, it’s something like college, boyfriends, grades, football, or drama. However, I am not your usual seventeen year-old. This last year, I was introduced to climbing by the director of my experiential ed. school, and ever since, it has been an intrepid journey of success and failure, and everything I have learned will forever shape my life.

In an era where climbers like Adam Ondra, who is only a few years older than me, are dominating, there is a huge motivation for young climbers to do the next biggest climb. Then there are climbers like me, still weakly stumbling around on top rope with crazy ambitions. Sometimes, I lose hope. On the last warm day of 2012 in my valley in Colorado, I slipped on a 5.9 climb and barn doored onto a flat featureless face, with no way up. I refused to be let down, absolutely intent on finishing the climb, so with collage students snickering at me from below, I scrambled, fought, and kicked at the wall for far too long. I came down a failure, dejected and embarrassed. I watched the local collage student climbers as they flawlessly lead 5.13s as I moped on a rock. In many ways, my failures were motivating. I made it my mission to complete that climb, and though I had failed, it left me alive to climb another day.

When it came time to learn how to lead, I felt a mixture of pride and fear. I was finally strong, skilled and experienced enough to leave behind the faithful top rope and move on to the freedom of a lead belay. I was terrified because now it was up to me to keep myself on the wall, and I could no longer rely on the rope. It was like being left home alone for the first time. I felt grown up, but I also didn’t have my familiar comfortable safety nets. One afternoon, I was practicing on the climb I planned to take my test to be certified by my school on. It was 5.9, and there were great holds for every clip, except for the last one. I got to the last clip and my hold felt weak, my hand that was trying to make the clip was shaking. I had at least ten feet of slack, and some how, I knew I couldn’t do it. Thanks to the speedy action of my belayer, I didn’t fall, but I was shaken. I was also, once again, determined to succeed. Over the next few weeks, I had a quick draw and a piece of rope tied to my bed, and I would practice clipping for hours. Every week we would return to that climbing gym and I would mock lead that climb over and over again. Finally, I flawlessly climbed it and I received permission to lead climb as much as I wanted.

My greatest and most proud accomplishment of the year, the thing that I gush about to anyone who will listen, happened in Capitol Reef national park in Utah. We went there to try out sandstone crack, and for many of us, it was our first time. According to me, it was all easy. The first climb I tried was a 5.9 and I scrambled right up, no big deal. As I watched others, I became more arrogant, that was until one of our instructors asked if I would like to try a 5.10 that someone had forgotten to clip the directional into. It was top rope, but I would not be able to rest on the rope like I normally do. Humbling does not even come close to describing how this climb made me feel. Looking up at the crux, my arms began to shake. If I fell or let go, I would barn door into space and never finish the climb. I recalled my first experience barn dooring, and I remembered those collage students who were snickering at me. Finally I let go of all my misplaced pride and climbed.

This year has been an adventure. Through climbing I was able to learn a little more about life. The only way to succeed is to fail. Had I not failed the first time I tried to lead, I would never have learned as much as I did. The ability for someone to learn from their mistakes is one of the most important qualities a person can possess, and it has allowed me to grow as a climber and as a person. Even if I never go pro, or even ever do anything extraordinary as a climber, I will never forget the lessons I learned from climbing, because it taught me to grow, and it taught me to drop ego because it’s heavy, and it taught me to constantly climb higher.