Gear at Red Rock

When Your Climbing Gear Gets Stolen

A friend and I had just finished a trip to Red Rock outside of Las Vegas. It was the first time I had ever climbed outside of Wyoming, and despite a long drive back to the harsh, early mountain winter, my mind was still full of hot rock and cold wind, a canyon echoing the cries and laughter from climbers, and the mellow fatigue that sets in when you’re halfway back to your car after a day of climbing.

Gear at Red Rock

Photo by Molly Herber

We’d just spent the night halfway home in Salt Lake City. In the morning, we restuffed the car full of backpacks, loose clothing, climbing gear, and some very important snacks (Goldfish). Snow was forecast and we had already seen a few wet flakes. We started the car, stepped back into our friends’ house to grab our jackets, and when we went back outside the car was gone.

The first moments were weird. We stared at the empty space on the street, thinking, Huh, I thought we parked there? Our brains started to add logic to this odd reality. Then, the “OH @#$%” response. Followed by a day of tension, phone calls, and a lot sitting around the house feeling aimless as we tried to figure out how to find stolen a car in a big city.

When a trip ends that way, it’s hard for that not to affect everything that came before. It’s hard not to retrace your steps and the what-if moments. Or think about the things that were in the car that you miss, from my cheap Batman-patterned leggings and my friend’s favorite thermos with precious trip stickers on it, to my backpack that I’d taken all over the Winds last summer, to the full rack of gear I had borrowed for my first climbing trip.

We were pretty fortunate. Our basic essentials—i.e., wallets and phones—were in our jacket pockets, not the car. We had a place to stay in a strange city, and with the most helpful people in the world.

Having folks offer rides, mail the keys when the car was found (empty but functional), lend us gear and clothes, and help in so many other ways sharpened my sense of dependence on other people. Their kindness astounded and comforted me. At the same time, I felt like I’d lost control and independence. That’s been bewildering, and hard.

Now, going climbing isn’t a quick phone call and go—it’s a series of arrangements and requests and depending on others’ generosity. I no longer have that back-of-the-mind assurance that I can pack up my car and go to the mountains on my own at any time.

Losing this stuff reveals itself in unexpected moments, like when I look for “that one thing,” and then say, “Oh %&#@, it’s in the car.” That’s on its way to becoming an inside joke, but it’s not funny yet. My friend and I both had spent years gathering that gear. It enabled us to have experiences we loved. Gear that gave us a sense of independence.

Losing a bunch of stuff has also meant facing the fact that I was very attached to a collection of material possessions, which I didn’t know about myself. Plenty of people reassure me that I value the experience the gear enabled, rather than the stuff itself. But when I tallied up my loss for the police report I definitely reacted to the actual dollar sign, not just the experiences behind that dollar sign. I don’t think that thinking about the loss of money makes me a bad person. Just a little more human than I thought I was.

And now, a few months later, I’m still wending my way through this process. Figuring out how to rebuild a gear set, working on my priorities, not just for the stuff but also for what it really meant. That process has been valuable and cleansing in its own way.

Wall at Red Rock

That rock though. Photo by Molly Herber.

I still have my job. I still have my home. I have a network of people to depend on (for emotional support and for gear). There is so much I am still able to do.

So with some frustration and a whole heap of gratitude, I’ll say that losing all that stuff has been an experience that I am grateful for, but wish I’d never had.

Had your stuff stolen, too? What’d you do? What was the impact on you—emotionally, financially? Share your story in the comments.

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