My journey into the world of rock climbing began through an online connection. I got in touch with Octavia via LinkedIn. I’ve been curious about climbing for a long time and have met many people practicing the sport, but never got the opportunity to try it myself.
I think climbing has a bad rep among the general public, mostly because of the lack of information and the occasional news of fatal accidents. I have been skeptical for a while now, wondering how such a dangerous sport can be practiced so extensively by people of all ages. And like with most things in life, I wanted to find out for myself.
Getting to know my guide, Octavia
Setting up a call to chat with Octavia was the easiest thing. She was friendly and eager to tell me about her life as well as her history with rock climbing. I was immediately hooked.
She told me she got into climbing as a teenager and hasn’t stopped since. What’s more, over the years she arranged her entire life around the sport that she loves and now she has the freedom to practice whenever and wherever she likes with her husband, Dani. The two have built the ideal relationship: a life organized around a shared passion and their days spent in nature, surrounded by good friends, a constant supply of fresh air, and incredible views. I found her story especially inspiring, as she has overcome the expectations of society to build an unconventional, yet deeply satisfying life.
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During the video chat, Octavia extended an invitation for me to come and climb near Braşov, one of the many amazing locations this country provides for climbing. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to get introduced to this sport and I was excited to meet her and experience her passion for climbing firsthand. Her engaging blog posts had already piqued my interest, but I was about to discover a whole new level of adventure as I embarked on my very first climbing experience.
Climbing preps and time for adventure
Our meeting point was in Zărneşti, near Braşov, where she and her husband live. The air was already buzzing with anticipation when I arrived on a sunny Saturday morning. Our destination: Prăpăstiile Zărneştilor (Zărneşti Gorges), a haven for climbers seeking the thrill of vertical challenges. Especially in summer, when it’s a great place to go to escape the scorching heat.
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I was happy to see how many people were attracted to this beautiful national park. Locals and tourists alike, children in carriers as well as older people were taking in the fresh air and pleasant shade that the rock walls were providing. The day promised adventure, camaraderie, and a steep learning curve.
As we geared up for the climb, Octavia and Dani patiently walked me through the basics of climbing. They ensured that I was comfortable and equipped with the necessary climbing gear. Their expertise was apparent, but what truly stood out was their genuine enthusiasm to share their knowledge and create a memorable experience for me.
Not long after passing the entrance to the Piatra Craiului National Park, we arrived at the rock face that would be our playground for the day. Some climbers were there already. Some of them were acquaintances, others not, but since everyone was there for the single purpose of climbing rocks, they treated each other as long-time friends.
My first outdoor climbing route and beyond
Octavia and Dani had prepared a beginner-friendly climbing route, thoughtfully designed to provide both challenges and victories. My doubts about whether this was a safe undertaking or not were quickly dispelled.
They explained the safety features of the whole climbing setup – the ropes, carabiners, bolts, anchor points, the eight-knot securing the rope to my harness, and the belay system designed to make falling virtually impossible. They also gave me a helmet so that I could feel completely safe up there. And in fact, I did. I realized that I had participated in simple hikes that felt a lot more precarious than climbing up this vertical slab of rock.
With Octavia and Dani taking turns belaying me, I embarked on my first ascent. The rush of the climb was exhilarating, each foothold and handhold fueling my determination. Their constant encouragement acted as a safety net, bolstering my confidence in ways I hadn’t anticipated. It also brought up a child-like enjoyment of adventure in me as I was using my whole body to climb and discover.
After my initial climb, exhaustion surged through my body, but it was accompanied by an exhilaration that only adventure can bring. My body felt as if I moved muscles I didn’t know I had, and the simultaneous exertion of all of them put me in kind of a daze for a good 20 minutes afterward. As time passed, however, the fatigue subsided, and my energy levels gradually returned. Octavia and Dani’s unwavering encouragement became the catalyst that kept me coming back for more.
Rock climbing proved to be a dynamic blend of physical prowess and mental fortitude. The support and friendship of the community was an unexpected bonus.
I felt an undeniable attraction to the mental aspect of climbing. I wasn’t just climbing, I was solving problems, trying over and over again, and finding solutions where it seemed that there were none before. It was an extra fun challenge when people from down below would shout clues up to me. This helped me find ways to put my hands and find a foothold so that I could get over particularly tricky parts of the line.
It’s all about community
The climbing community radiated a welcoming spirit, a group bound not only by ropes but by a shared passion for conquering challenges. I felt supported and secure, with climbers offering words of wisdom and encouragement. Each climb felt like a collaborative effort, a blend of trust, and determination echoing off the rocks. And never for a moment did I feel that I didn’t belong.
It was the smoothest initiation I have ever experienced into a group of people. I might not have had my own gear, or known the technical jargon, yet I belonged just for the simple reason that I was there to climb.
My rock climbing initiation extended beyond a new sport; it was an introduction to a way of life. Octavia and Dani were instrumental in shaping this journey. Their expertise as trainers and climbers was only matched by their kindness and encouragement. Their genuine love for the sport was infectious, and their eagerness to impart their knowledge was inspiring.
Through Octavia and Dani, I discovered not only the joy of rock climbing but the power of community and shared passion. Their guidance transformed the intimidating walls of Prăpăstiile Zărneştilor into personal triumphs.
As I left the crag that day, I knew I was part of something bigger than myself. The world of rock climbing, with its physical and mental challenges, enticed me, and Octavia and Dani’s unwavering support ensured that I would answer that call again.
I now look forward to future climbs. Not just for the thrill of ascending heights, but to once again bask in the warmth of the encouragement of my newfound friends and the vibrant community they’ve helped cultivate. With their guidance, every climb becomes a testament to the heights we can reach, both on and off the rock face.
*Photos by Szidonia Lorincz
I’m Szidonia, a globetrotting freelance photographer hailing from Transylvania, on a passionate mission to inspire sustainable travel. I travel the world full-time, looking for adventures and stories to be told through my images and words. Check out my blog, Travel Exposure, for more inspiration.