You’ve seen Savannah at both First Ascent gyms crushing on lead and bouldering like a beast. She’s also one of our valued employees who works the desk and teaches climbing. Navigating adult life on any spectrum is a challenge, and here she muses on how she’s balanced and juggled her need/want to climb with school and transition over the past few years. Check her out on Instagram and the blog she keeps “Crimpin’ and Biscuits” for some more Savvy-stoke.
I lived the simple climbing lifestyle during my time down south. My only classes freshman year of college were Tuesdays/Thursdays, so my free time was mostly spent taking whips and punting off boulders outdoors. Chattanooga was only a two hour drive from Atlanta, so weekday trips became the norm. The lifestyle was exhausting, but I felt free because I had the ability to climb outside so often. Unfortunately, my mental health began to decline during the same year, and I found myself in need of an escape and a fresh start. I never would have guessed that would land me in Chicago.
The pile of Ale-8 bottles in my car grew every week
Last year as a sophomore at Chicago’s DePaul University, my schedule during fall quarter granted me the opportunity to take trips to the Red River Gorge every weekend. With a light course load and little extracurricular responsibility, the pile of Ale-8 bottles in my car grew every week.
Early this past summer I traveled with friends all across the country in search of quality rock and good people. The first stop was Ten Sleep, Wyoming: a town of 250 of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. We spent a little over two weeks pulling pockets and dry-firing on crimps until my my skin was worn down to nothing. Then we fled to southern Wyoming to snag some trad climbing on lead (my first go on trad lead) in Vedauwoo. Spending three weeks in Wyoming – the least populated state in the US – made me want to climb outside even more when I got back to Chicago.
I got to stand in the shadow of El Capitan
And so I did. I spent the weekends of July soaked in sweat, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes while climbing at the Red. But I wanted one last adventure to capitalize on my hard work during my time off. A couple weeks after my last trip to the Red this summer, I got to stand in the shadow of El Capitan, the most impressive chunk of exposed granite I’ve ever seen. My final stop of the summer was Yosemite with my boyfriend, James. Although our original plans went south and we didn’t send anything, I don’t think we will ever forget that trip.
As I now approach the second quarter of my junior year at DePaul, the weekend trips to the Red have diminished. I also feel I have officially transitioned from the Atlanta climbing lifestyle, where rock is super accessible, to the Chicago climbing lifestyle ,where gym climbing is the norm and good rock is hours away. Although I would rather live somewhere convenient for climbing outside, I’ve finally figured out a way to live in the flattest part of the country and still feel fulfilled as a climber.
I find myself more motivated to train
So how do I feel so fulfilled if I don’t get to climb outside during the school year? I focus on school, work hard, and save money. My reward is the opportunity to take advantage of my time when school is out. It motivates me to climb more in the gym to plan trips to far-away destinations. By planning these trips and not going to the Red every weekend, I find myself more motivated train. I look forward to creating lasting memories and gaining more knowledge and experience from traveling. Moving to Chicago for school and a fresh start wasn’t ideal for climbing, but I don’t regret the decision. Life’s all about learning how to take what you have and turning it into the best possible scenario. If I’ve learned one thing from the Chicago climbing community, it’s that.
Pics c/o and writing by: Savannah Buik