I have now been climbing for over a decade and I still get the same remarks when I tell people who are not climbers what I do for fun. They usually say something along the lines of “that is intense” or that I am “crazy”. And then they follow up with the question “how did you get into climbing?” It can seem easy to answer, but if you delve a little deeper, it is not as simple as it seems.
My story is a good example of the nuance. My journey into the climbing world began in high school. I found out that there was a climbing club in years gone by, but it had shut down before my time. I put some effort in and was able to reestablish the club. Seems straightforward enough… But why? Why did I bother to rekindle the climbing club? What drew me in to take that initiative? Why did I choose to use my free time to participate in something that I had zero experience in? These are the questions that needed to be answered to really find out what got me into climbing.
In all honesty, I think it was in my genes all along. Something innate awoke within me one day and told me to start climbing. The best way I can describe it is that I could hear the world around me whispering. The only way I could appease the world was to ensure climbing became the center of my life.
So if my genes are the answer, then where did they come from? And no, I do not mean the laundry. None of my immediate family have shown interest in climbing. Only my Grandfather, Leo Alic, was a climber. My mom described my Grandfather as someone who I would have gotten along quite well with, since it seems we have similar personalities. He was one of those old school mountaineers who grew up climbing and hiking the mountains in Slovenia. Old school meaning pre-rubber soled climbing shoes, dynamic ropes and with a stout ethic where the leader cannot fall. He was also a man that loved to have have few pints with some friends, and was always game for an adventure.
Adventure is exactly what I was looking for when I set out on a four-month climbing trip across Europe. I made sure to make it back to Slovenia to see my family who still live there, and to see where my Grandfather grew up. A family member recounted a story of one of my Grandfather’s adventures. He and some friends had climbed all day up one of the mountains in the Alps-Adriatic area, and they were within 100 meters from the summit when the weather started to turn. They waited for a few hours hoping that the weather would break and the sun would come out, though it did not happen. They started to climb back down, and right when they reached the bottom, the weather cleared again. They were obviously disappointed, however they at least had a reason to come back another day to tag the summit. Despite not being an epic tale, the story resonated with me because this is the true essence of climbing. Regardless of the adventure you go on, if it is a success or a failure it is still an adventure.
Just like my Grandfather, I always look for new places to explore, so I can have a story to share when I get back home. Sadly this was one of the only climbing stories that I know about my Grandfather since he died when I was quite young. I know if he were still around, he would have had many stories to tell about his time in the hills and other aspects of his life. When I am asked, “What got you into climbing?” I will tell people that I believe it was the genes I share with my Grandfather. I aspire that my genes will lead my future family to discover climbing as well.
For me, climbing has become not only a passion and a hobby, but a way of life. The climbing that I do today is very much different than the mountaineering my Grandfather did in Slovenia, but our passion for embarking on these upward adventures is of the same vein. Even now, I’ve started my own climbing gym, and I know that we will shape many new passionate climbers for years to come.
Kevin Allen discovered climbing in his youth. His spidery rock prowess have led him to climb all over the world: throughout Canada the United States and Mexico, France, Spain and Slovenia His latest pursuit in the realm of climbing has been to open a gym, Top Rock Climbing, in Brampton, Ontario.