work journal

The time I won $100 climbing a rock and promptly gave it away

April 10, 2024

I haven’t opened this photo in years, but Google Drive somehow pinned it to the top of my ‘Recent’ folder months ago. I’m taking it as a sign it’s time to tell the story about the time I won $100 climbing a rock and promptly gave it away. 

Courtesy of an American Alpine Club grant, I’d flown to Alaska to spend three weeks with three girlfriends traipsing around in the mosquito-infested boglands near Dillingham and climbing first ascents on the beautiful and lichen-covered Tickchick Domes. I was 27, and figured I better stay in Alaska as long as possible. After several more adventures, on my second-to-last day, and just before meeting then-governor Palin at an environmental fair in Anchorage the day before McCain picked her as his running mate (“Call me any time,” she said as she handed me her business card that afternoon), I drove a couple hours to a climbing area with two acquaintances. 

One of them, the bush plane pilot Bruce Adams, had announced a long-standing challenge I was hungry to take on:

$100 cash to the first woman besides Kirsten Kremer (a local mountain guide and badass) to climb The Shaft, a long, varied route then graded as 11d, and now seemingly upped to 12a. 

I had never led an 11d without falling, much less a 12a, but I had about $200 total in my bank account, and I definitely wanted to go climbing. 

I spent the day throwing myself at this route, warming up on it, learning it, falling and flinging off of it, thrashing myself on it, and finally sending it clean after seven attempts. 

Bruce handed me $100 cash, and before I could say thanks, he told me about the local kids’ climbing team and how they traveled to out-of-state competitions, and wouldn’t I mind donating $40? Sure, I said, absolutely, and handed it over. 

Next, as we packed our bags for the drive back to Anchorage, he mentioned how hungry we all were, and wouldn’t I take the group out for burgers? Yes, of course, I would. All told I think I walked with around $10, and in retrospect, I sure hope I offered it to Bruce for gas money.

Where is the business lesson in this? 

😌 Easy come, easy go? Nope, that was pretty hard to get and easy to spend. 

🔨 Work your tail off, and it’s worth it in the end? Hummm. 

🪙 Watch where you spend the precious coins of your energy? Closer. 

🏋🏼 How about: Commit to what matters most to you, learn learn learn, make money, give a bunch away, invest in others, and play hard.

🍔 That, and burgers were way cheaper 15 years ago.

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