At 7:30 AM, we marched up the Ouray Community Center steps to set up the coffee station provided by Red Bay Coffee Roasters. The room was filled with gear from event sponsors to make sure that attendees were prepared for the weekend's activities. The Rab table was up and distributing hardshell jackets, gloves, and puffies of varying weights, while the Scarpa crew laced boots onto climbers' feet for the perfect fit. Ice tools hung in neat rows along storage bins awaiting suitors who would wield them honorably. The sign-in table welcomed guests with gift bags, name tags, and button bins with preferred pronouns. In the open hall stood the COVID-19 testing station, that staff and participants were required to access upon arrival. The clinics began each day in this same room at circular tables spread apart and labelled. A shuttle bus waited outside for transport to Ouray Ice Park about a mile up the road. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as old friends were reunited, and new acquaintances were made.
The goal of the day for most was to get on ice. On the first day, we marched to the back of the park to an area called South Park. A canopy of ropes extended from belayers to climbers, which we meandered through in order to reach our clinic. Here is where I started to feel my normal anxieties surface. Trying something new that involves risk of injury is one element to process, but another complex layer exists.
Entering a new context can bring up several emotions for people, regardless of race, gender identity, and/or ability. For some, it is a difficult task to meet new people. Others may have fears about acceptance and belonging. I believe these are very human feelings that are valid. What makes these situations for marginalized communities complex, is the experience of our identities historically being vilified, unwelcomed, excluded, and violently suppressed. My climbing partner and I were the only black individuals at the crag at that point, which is a typical experience. I feel every ounce of my blackness when I enter spaces that don’t represent my demographic. It is normal to feel tension in any situation where cultures converge and a new atmospheric dynamic is formed. What should not be normal are the presuppositions that come with being BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, or persons with disabilities. My entry into the space transforms me into the black ambassador for all black people who ever “blacked”, and I have an uphill battle just to find common ground. This is true for all marginalized groups - fighting through all the muck because of our marginalized identities - on top of fighting through all the emotional work typical to the human experience. It is a work of labor to show up, but we feel the hunger for the outdoors so strongly that we face our adversities head-on.