30 x 30 – A Celebration of Life, Fitness, and Friends
This post is written by Sevve Stember and is a guest contribution to the Climb 50×50 blog.
“How does it feel to be 30?” We’ve all had that question on our birthday; it’s a strange question that I never seem to have a satisying answer for. Most of the time, I feel unchanged-like the same person I was at 20 years old. Specifically, I feel unchanged at my core. I still love to be outside being active with people I care about, I’m still highly motivated by food, I still am driven each day to be a better version of my former self. But, let’s be honest; each of us see the signs of ageing around us everyday: friends having babies, getting a gray hair, our parents aging. Time marches forward whether we like it or not.
My dear friend and climbing partner Bobby completed 30 climbs for his 30th birthday last year. I was totally psyched on the idea and decided to help him out the entire day as he climbed routes at Barn Bluff in Minnesota. I suppose it was there that I began to think about my own 30th birthday as it quickly approached.
One evening after a long day of teaching middle school students, as I worked to forget the day’s stresses, I hatched my own 30 x 30 plan. Shelf Road would be the location. It’s the best sport climbing in the front range of Colorado and I couldn’t imagine a better place to enjoy my 30th birthday. I would climb 30 routes in a day and I had created a list of which routes I would climb. The list was conservative meaning that the routes were shorter, easier, and of a lower quality than I would normally climb. Game day decisions could always be made if I decided to up the ante.
Friday night, a good crew of my friends started to trickle in at the group campsite positioned above the canyon with an excellent view of Cactus Cliff. Excitement was palpable and spirits were high.
The alarms went off at 4:45AM, ugh. To my surprise, nearly everyone that came got up, made breakfast and headed out to the far edge of Cactus Cliff to help support me, and keep psych high. I was on route by 7AM and the team of friends that joined me was amazing. We all worked together like a finely tuned machine; some groups climbing and equipping routes that I would climb, others taking down draws off of routes that I had already climbed.“You’re not cleaning any routes today.” Mike firmly told me as a show of the commitment everyone had to helping me out. By 8:30AM I had climbed 10 routes already. I was way ahead of schedule. At this pace, I’d be done before lunch.
I was feeling strong and the conservative list that I had hatched long ago from my couch was now only a vague compass. Instead of following the list, I chose routes that had higher quality ratings, were longer, more continuous, and more challenging. The original list has only a couple 5.11a’s on it; soon I had climbed 5, up to 5.11d.
After that first 1.5 hours push, the pace slowed as the temperatures rose, but I steadily ticked off routes, continuing to climb better than anticipated. After sending route #17, Pickpocket 5.11d, we moved into the pleasant shade and cooler temps of the Dark Side.
Soon, I had completed 29 routes and I paced the cliff to find route #30. There was one problem – none of the routes looked appealing. Rather than hiking back whence we came and completing an easier route, I eyed up a very steep and aesthetic 5.11c that went up a blunt prow. “Gar, Mike…what do you guys think about this 5.11 line here?” I inquired. They responded with eager nods and a “yah dude, go for it!”.
Gar hung the draws for me (which was a huge help) and provided excellent feedback on the route. The others gathered to support as I tied into the rope. Self-doubt crept into my brain…”is this too hard of a route to be attempting this late?” was one of many questions my subconscious asked. Right before I left the ground, I took a deep breath and felt an inner calmness. “I’ve got this.” I told myself.
Despite being tired, I climbed well and navigated the crux of the route without issue and found myself clipping the anchors as my friends gave eager hoots and yips from the ground.
The weekend was about celebration. It was a celebration of good friends, the beautiful natural world we get to live in, setting goals, inspiring each other to dig deep within ourselves, and being active while leading a healthy lifestyle. Through climbing I’ve had the blessing to be inspired by the people around me and inspire others to push themselves. On my birthday, or any day, I think inspiration is one of the most powerful gifts I could ever hope to give or receive. To the future!