We Are Always Soloing

Categories: Community

Soloing is a dangerous game. One mistake—one slip-up—and you’re dead. Most climbers will never solo. Those who do have taken a very deliberate, intentional step. Once they reach the top of the wall or get back down to the ground, they can choose to never risk their life again.

Some of us don’t have that choice. Some of us are always soloing. One mistake—one slip up— and we’re dead. The wrong door knocked on to get help after an accident. The wrong woman confronted in the park about her off-leash dog. The wrong body, the wrong skin color, to be given a chance to breathe by a police officer who is supposed to be there to keep us safe.

Photo courtesy of © Kai Böttcher

Black and Brown folks are always soloing. There is no spring-loaded camming device of privilege to make sure we are safe when we are pulled over for going 10 over the speed limit. There is no benefit of the doubt when we are subjected to stop and frisk. We have to send. We have to be perfect. And sometimes, even when we do everything right, a hold breaks, and there is another dead Black or Brown person in the street.

Access Fund’s mission is to keep climbing areas open and protect the climbing environment. The death of George Floyd, and systemic racism in our country, specifically anti-Black racism and oppression, is an access issue. If you do not even feel safe on the sidewalk out front of your house—if you do not even feel safe in your own home—how could you possibly feel safe going out to the crag, let alone pulling a crux way off the deck? Even if the gate to the crag is open, can someone who feels fear for their life simply because they’ve stepped outside truly be said to have access to our climbing areas?

We have a moral and social obligation to address these issues. It is our responsibility to avidly and wholeheartedly support the grassroots organizations and individuals that are already leading this struggle. Organizations active in this work right now, like Brothers of Climbing, Brown Girls Climb, Flash Foxy, Homoclimbtastic, and so many more, are leading the charge on making justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion an everyday and essential part of climbing. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to live up to JEDI principles as an organization, and to advocate for a climbing community—and a country—where no one is prevented from experiencing the life-changing world of climbing because of who they are, where they are from, or what they look like. Right now, that means we must work to support the Black community in responding to the terrible acts of racism and violence in this country. To our Black members, friends, and family: we are with you. This is a problem we must all show up to address. We recognize we must do more and want to reassure you we will continue to do our part to educate our members and followers about these issues.

Every climber knows that solid, steady breathing is key to sending at your limit. Without a strong foundation of breath, you’re going to pump out and whip. Breathing is something we can do anytime we want—for most of us. When the ability to breath becomes an afterthought, when BIPOC aren’t soloing and Black people aren’t in danger of their lives every time they go for a run or climb—then, and only then, will we truly have access for all.

Until that time, Access Fund will remain committed to JEDI principles, and to supporting the struggle for justice in our country. Further, we hope that beyond basic safety Black people in our country can finally experience the freedom, joy, and healing that they deserve. We invite our members and community to hold us accountable in growing together and improving Access Fund for all.

What Can I Do?

  • Educate yourself. The amount of quality material on systemic racism in America is vast. Here’s a list of anti-racism resources to start with.
  • Support movements for justice, whether by your presence at a protest, by donating, or by demanding change and accountability from your legislators.
  • Both in person and in your online presence, amplify and prioritize the voices of those on the front lines and those whose voices have historically been repressed. Listen to what they have to say.
  • Critically examine your own behavior. We all have biases, and it is a never ending—and very worthwhile—struggle to make sure we as individuals are doing all we can to live up to JEDI principles in our own everyday actions. We must strive to practice allyship in everything we do.
  • Research and invest in equitable and safe outdoor access and recreation in your areas and understand how you can be a part of the solution. Ask how your local parks and public lands are supporting the ability of Black and Brown folks to get outside safely.

Taimur Ahmad
Taimur is Access Fund’s JEDI fellow and also works on California and national policy issues. Taimur is from New York City and got his start in climbing bouldering on Rat Rock in New York’s Central Park, on Lenape and Wappinger lands.