Mentorship is the process of handing down a body of hard won experience and knowledge of someone with many years of experience to someone who has stepped up to ask for that person to help usher them through an apprenticeship of learning a skill, a sport or a profession. I recently had a young climber/photographer who had joined me on a Trad Rock course ask me after the course if I could mentor him?
I was a bit caught off guard by his request and told him that I am really busy during the summer months (which I am) but that I was happy to talk on the phone or text to debrief his adventures to hopefully fast track the learning.
A few days later I was at the climbing gym talking with an old friend who is roughly my age and we were discussing a number of recent mishaps/near missed in the local climbing community. We also discussed the fact that there are so many climbers coming out of climbing gyms and learning to climb outside straight away with little or no mentorship. I have read stats that in the US there are 1000-1500 new climbers signing waivers at climbing gyms every. single. day. Let that sink in, the growth in our once fringe sport is now exploding and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Fortunately, there are some climbers in the Bow Valley who are generous with their free time and take young fledglings under their wing. However, the stark reality is that there are far more young grasshoppers than there are climbing Jedi out there. In the big picture, these are first world problems for sure but what are some ways around this?
It starts with realizing that if you are serious about learning to lead, learning to trad climb or climb big traditional routes in the Rockies and even bigger alpine walls, you need to serve an apprenticeship with someone who has their shit together and can teach you about preparation, attitude, technical skills, reading terrain and teaching all the other countless but crucial nuances that will keep you alive for longer in the mountains.
For one, young climbers need to step up and ask for help! That’s right, the more I thought about the young man who asked me to mentor him recently the more I realized that it takes some serious guts to even ask someone that is experienced and is a valued resource to him/her.
Next, if your request for mentorship is accepted then its time to get psyched and commit to what the mentor and yourself has come up with to establish trust and a meaningful long term partnership. If it sounds like a relationship, it’s because it is.
Today I reached out to the young man who asked me to mentor him and told him that I was willing to put more effort into his request because quite frankly, I am very fortunate to have had all of the people who taught me.
I would like to thank all of the people who taught me along the way.
Photo Credit: Tristen Heatherington