Father’s Day Member Spotlight: Chris Mayle
By, Luke Alpert
Chris Mayle has one regret about climbing: he hasn’t been doing it for decades. Luckily, thanks to the decision he and his wife Jen made to come try ASCEND out a little over a year ago, Keira, their daughter, will never share that regret.
“The first night we were here we just had a blast, it was one of those nights, we must’ve climbed for four hours, and for days after we couldn’t do anything. Some nights I call Jen and tell her I might have to Uber home.“ Climbing was something Chris and Jen always thought seemed fun, but before climbing gyms, the barriers to entry were too overwhelming. The desire to climb, Chris says, “marinated for years until we started to frequent the local gyms, and once we started coming to ASCEND, I mean, we came to have fun and goof off, but we stayed for the community.” “I’m always trying to find things that we can do as a family,” Chris says. Originally a mountain biker, mountain biking wasn’t the right fit for everyone in the family. With climbing, the fit is just right.“We don’t want Keira to be a porcelain doll,” Chris says, “we want her to have an adventurous childhood. We want her to try things that don’t appear safe.” Saying this, Chris laughs, “imagine my surprise when I found out how safe climbing is as an activity.” “When I was a kid, my dad never said, ‘hey let’s go rock climbing.'' I would’ve gone, but he never offered. We wanted Keira to have that chance.” “Now,” Chris says, and this writer can attest (no offense Chris and Jen!), “she’s a better climber than both of us.”
“I don’t think she quite believes that,” Chris is quick to say, “but she is, and she’ll learn to believe it. Some nights she’s on, she’s absolutely incredible to watch, she’s having fun, she does amazing. I’ll be struggling on something. ‘Dad, it’s easy,’ and I’ll challenge her to do it and she flies up the wall. There are good nights and bad nights, and it’s a matter of getting her to believe in herself, and she’ll get there, and even on the bad nights, deep down, you can tell she’s having fun.”
For Chris and Jen, climbing is as much about the activity as the community that comes with it. “The climbing community, and the people here specifically, it’s amazing, and it’s not something I've found in any other activity. The amount of support, oh my god, if I had that at that age, I would've been absolutely invincible.”
“I didn’t really expect,” Chris continues, “coming down here and getting to know people, how great a community the climbing community is. Everyone you meet is the most supportive person, everyone’s ready to mentor you, everyone’s got your back, everyone just wants you to succeed. it was a good choice and I’m so glad she took to it.”
After talking about climbing, about ASCEND, Chris pauses, looks me in the eye and says, “Fatherhood, equal parts pride and abject terror,” and then laughs.
Chris approaches fatherhood with the same mindset he encourages in Keira and values at ASCEND: a growth mindset. “Fatherhood didn’t come with a guide,” he says, “but I try to find the direct and indirect lessons and make them happen.” Those lessons abound at ASCEND and in climbing. “Jen and I love it here too,” Chris says, almost as an aside, “but it really is about making sure she’s good, making sure she’s comfortable, making sure she’s growing as a person.”
“It changes you,” Chris continues, matter-of-fact and totally sincere, “it changes your perspective. It has changed my life, Jen’s life, everything’s for her. That’s all we think of. Even the nights we’re apart and I get take out, she’s on my mind all the time. Maybe I don’t get to go out, but I’m hanging out with my family and that’s good.”
After a moment, Chris says, “Joy, terror, questioning, it’s not easy. Putting it into words like that, it is not easy.”
Happy Father’s Day to Chris and to every dad out there who loves fiercely and works to help your young one(s) grow.