Climbing as a Lifestyle

Climbing as a Lifestyle

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rami Boustany and I'm a 29 year old MD from Lebanon. 2023 was a year in transition in my professional life and I was lucky enough to have some time off and get into climbing.

My climbing journey properly started at the beginning of April 2023 in a very coincidental way when two of my friends, who are very passive and recreational climbers, texted me asking if I wanted to try indoor climbing. Always up for new adventures I agreed and showed up to the gym not knowing 1% of what climbing was about. My first session was disastrous, pulling hard with my arms and barely using my feet thinking that this was all about upper body strength and how hard you can grab a hold and pull yourself up. It's fair to say I didn’t enjoy the physical part of it, but getting to the top, however way I did it, was the feeling I found myself slowly getting addicted to.

After about a month of hard indoor climbing, building confidence, strength, and an understanding of the sport, a close friend convinced me to join him on an outdoor trip to Tannourine. That first proper outdoor trip is a day I don’t think I will ever forget, he was kind enough to lead easy routes for me to top rope and guided me through the, fairly easy now that I think of them, cruxes of the routes I was trying. To my surprise the next time he asked if I wanted to climb in Tannourine I automatically agreed without any hesitation or convincing needed. My love for outdoor climbing began. Top roping any 5-grade route I could, then leading my first route (a 5B in the Olive Grove sector in Tannourine in Lebanon), then leading and cleaning other 5s. My first real challenge came when I decided to try to lead Aywa (a classic 6A at the crag). To admit that I felt no fear would be a lie, but with the right guidance and support, I understood that fear and the mental challenge involved in any climb were part of the sport. It was around this point when my friend introduced me to his climbing friends and I was slowly but unintentionally getting integrated into the climbing community.

If you realize that up to this point, I’m still referring to climbing as a sport. The more time I spent with my new friends and the more people from the community they introduced me to the more I realized that climbing is a lifestyle and not just a sport. A lifestyle so peaceful and calm that extended beyond just a single climb on the wall. My love for the “off the wall” experience was quickly growing. The road trips, the snacks at the crags, belaying other climbers on harder projects, cheering on as fellow climbers achieved their goals.

What I loved most about the group I'm climbing with is that I learned and am still learning something from every single climber I spend time with. Male or female, young or old, experienced or not, there is always a lesson to be learned either by listening to their advice or by watching them methodically work on their climbing projects. One piece of advice given to me by Elias Issa and maybe this was passed on to him by other climbers is “Climbing isn’t about overcoming fear, fear will always be there. Climbing is about confronting this fear and trying the moves over and over again until you feel comfortable”. He helped me understand that if all safety measures are respected then there is no reason to be afraid to try what scares you or what makes you feel uncomfortable. Other climbers have done “that” move so why can’t you? This particular conversation opened up a whole new perspective on the mental aspect of this lifestyle and how important it is to be mentally “fit” just as much as physically fit. And what better way to be mentally comfortable than to be well surrounded by supportive and like-minded climbers, which is the case for most if not all climbers in our community.

The second piece of advice that also helped me improve was given to me by almost everyone I’ve talked to while climbing. “Climb hard and climb everything that comes your way, disregard the grade, and try the route that seems interesting to you for every challenge brings a lesson and every lesson makes you stronger.” 
Even though climbing seems like a solo sport where it's only you on the wall and no one else there but you, your strength, and your thoughts, my friends made me strongly believe in the importance of a healthy community around it. A lot goes on “behind the scenes” of a climb. In my case there is always someone who would happily lead the route I want to work on before me, giving me tips on what to look out for, there is always someone ready to belay, and there is always someone taking a rest watching you from the ground cheering you on and giving you simple words of motivation. I even remember some climbers stopping their climbs mid-way on adjacent routes to point out a few things on my route as I was going up. And sometimes when you truly feel you are stuck in the middle of a route these small things surrounding you are very important to keep you going. What I'm trying to say is that without my supportive surroundings, I don’t think I would have indulged in this lifestyle. Soon enough, I found myself being on the other end of this type of support… cheering on other climbers, asking them about their progress and how their most recent tries felt, but what I found myself enjoying most was being the consistent belayer for a friend on one of his hard projects. I found myself memorizing the route with him and knowing exactly when he needed some words of motivation and support, and most surprisingly feeling excitement and anxiousness when he came close to sending it. All in all, I would personally describe the sport as everything but a solo sport, it's always a team effort and everyone around you plays a role whether big or small. Sharing your sends, or your close friends' sends, gives you the same satisfaction.

I was once asked what my goal in climbing was, and at the time my answer was “My short-term goal is maybe to climb one 7a as soon as I can”. Now that I think of it it's important to have short-term goals because it's one way to stay motivated, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this lifestyle, if well balanced and well surrounded, pushes you further and further without much effort and consideration. You will find yourself wanting to challenge your mind and body further without really intending it and that is what makes it much more exciting. When I think of the community as a whole, I hope that climbing in Lebanon grows, with the right attitude and guidance, and that hopefully we have a Lebanese climber achieve something not seen before in the climbing scene in our area because our mountains deserve all the recognition and have the potential to be something very positively beautiful to our internally damaged country.

If you ask me what my best experience while climbing was my answer is very easy. My first multi-pitch experience, Brume en Ribazi, in the Tannourine el Fawqa sector. A full day of adventure conquering this beautiful mountain from ground to top with two very close friends. The higher we got the more it hit me that I was just a small thing on the face of this big mountain slowly climbing one step at a time to a very rewarding view from the top.

Finally, and surely not enough, I would like to personally thank Climberspace as a whole for introducing me, including me, and giving me the chance to experience this lifestyle with them. Share truly unforgettable memories, laughs, adventures, and experiences with them with the hopes of having many more memories created together and celebrating the ups and downs together.

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