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Spectrum of a Sport: Personal Evolution via Climbing the Ozarks

Arkansas local and climbing enthusiast, Andrea Anzalone shares her journey within the Ozarks' many climbing offerings. From gym climbing to bouldering, from sport climbing to trad, read the stories behind the transition of an Ozark climber.

Isn’t climbing amazing? All who climb are intimately aware of it’s caliber, and all who do not have plenty of exposure to the visually striking (and again, in my opinion, amazing) act of climbing. Thankfully with the transformation of mountaineering, climbing has blossomed into an array of styles-- many of which we can find here in our humble hills of the Ozarks.

From Gym to the Wild:

As were many climbers, I was introduced to climbing at a local bouldering gym in college. Realizing that bouldering was extremely affordable and something I could do solo, it quickly turned into an every weekend activity. Bouldering served as an excellent outlet for stress and an excuse to look cool in Horseshoe Canyon with my new (extremely awkward-feeling) pad. Unfortunately, there was only so much poison ivy I could tolerate and the interest soon faded.

The Transition to Sport Climbing:

Years later, a friend insisted I get on a rope to, as he loves to say, “clip some bolts!” Only after he rented a cabin for us and our partners (which we both ended up marrying) did I concede. I don’t know the reason behind my initial hesitation, but as soon as I could see above tree line, over the valleys of rural Arkansas and my trusted friend at the other end of my rope, the hesitation melted away. The introduction of sport climbing added so much dimension! There was suddenly a need to save energy to cover much greater distances, a need to identify stances to clip from, assess risky fall zones and most foreign, having to manage gear.

It was everything I loved: physically demanding, mentally challenging, and set in the outdoors.

A few years later after completing my hardest route, I experienced a strange shadow over the usual joy of sending. An anticlimax. There was no sense of satisfaction-just abundant nothingness.

Some of you might be familiar with such a thing.

After accomplishing an all-consuming task and to then pose yourself the question, ‘what's next?’ or 'now what?' is incredibly daunting.

Trad Climbing Arkansas:

Thankfully, this is what friends are for. It was right at this time that another friend of mine scooped me up from that nasty edge of self-pity and told me we were going trad climbing. In 30 degree weather. A couple of layers and a pair of hot hands later, the experience was a complete success.

Trad climbing added even more dimension to everything I knew. It demands that you not only map your moves, but predict and place your own protection using entirely different techniques. Trad climbing was, in retrospect, the chance to look at climbing in the way I did my first day on rope: with complete curiosity, zero expectation, and a resolution to understand all the new gear. So refreshing! And guess what? Places that offer a chance for all this growth such as the immense Sam’s Throne region and Hudson Mountain can be found in our very same Ozarks.

With so many styles of climbing available to us in our humble hills, it might just be the perspective shift you need to attempt a new one (or to attempt one at all!). Get out there.

written by Andrea Anzalone | photo by Hutch & Futch Photography