Dear Roller Girls,

When I met you three years ago, you looked stumpy and terrifying, like a goblin. I watched strong friends grunt through your opening moves, and I held my breath as they clipped the third bolt. Falling there didn’t seem to be an option. 

Photo by Jarred Pickens

I projected your crag’s warm up first, Uber Ass, (12a). This route scared me too because a ledge below the first crux seemed like an ankle-breaker. I took a fall above it once. The ledge didn’t break my ankle, not even close. When I managed to clip Uber Ass’s anchors, the Cube opened up.

It made sense to try you next. You spat me out. Each move proved impossible. You were as formidable as you looked. The season wrapped up and I hadn’t done a single move.

The beginning heel hook thrusted my knee in my mouth. The hand holds seemed impossibly nuanced. My body wanted to fall downhill, gravity winning again and again. It seemed the name Uber Ass fit you better because you made my butt feel ginormous. 

The last couple of years our relationship proved sporadic. And frankly, it often felt abusive. I know you’d call it tough love, but one afternoon spent trying to figure you out would leave me sore and confused. How do I get my lengthy ass leg to heel hook by my hand? How do I even get back on when I fall?

But then there’d be a day, seemingly at random, when I’d do a move I couldn’t the week, month, season before. Overall, I think the best thing for our relationship was when I took some space. I needed to try other climbs. Ya know, lots of fish in the sea and all that. Sometimes you have to play the field to get to know yourself better.

And play the field I did, climbing whatever and wherever I could. When I came back to you this fall, I knew my body in new ways. I was stronger, yes. But I could also feel when the heel hook in your opening sequence would stick. I could figure out how to angle my hips differently rather than trying to pull harder with my hands. 

Even though I physically felt we could finally seal the deal, there was still something holding me back. It wasn’t you being all awkward for my body this time around. It was me and this thing called Doubt.

You were all like, okay, Kelsey, here I am, ready for you when you are. And I was all in my head like, I dunno. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I'm kinda tired today. 

Then I did it. I mean, we did it. And now I’m writing you this letter in gratitude, because you taught or reminded me of some important things:

  • Almost in all cases the fear is worse than the actual fall. 

  • It worked for me to thank the Doubt for trying to keep me safe, then kindly asking the Doubt to relax. It’s done its job. I’ve freaking got this. (Cue favorite get psyched song.)

  • Sending is possible even when circumstances are less than ideal. I couldn’t feel my fingers the go I sent.

  • It’s important to celebrate mini-successes during long term projects to stay psyched.

  • Training works. But there’s also no substitute for real rock, lots of it and lots of different styles.

So thanks Roller Girls. I hope to climb you again soon. You're awesome, after all. Super fun and challenging and pretty. You’re short, but you pack a lot of punch. I know it's been complicated, but sometimes the best relationships aren’t the easiest. 

With my respect,


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