It usually hits you after your first coffee the next morning. At the latest when you sit down at your desk. It comes, seemingly, out of nowhere, and the happiness and euphoria you might have felt at your day out up until then disappear. Everything turns to grey. You feel sad, hopeless, bereft of a purpose, in short: You feel down.

It’s recovery mode. It’s refuelling. It’s kind of like a hangover after the frenzy of climbing. To refuel you need to stop. The sudden change from racing to stillness is too much. You drop into a hole. It’s rest day depression.

The bigger the route, the harder it hits.

I used to believe climbing was a very romantic thing. That what motivated me to go and climb multi-pitches was being drawn to overcoming fear, overcoming my own boundaries, and feeling alive due to the proximity of death. However, I came across an article in an Alpine Club Yearbook that challenged these notions: “Rauschzustände im Bergsport”, BERG 2018. It said that going into the mountains could be an addiction like anything else, that a huge part of what made you want to go back to that (horrible, fearful, disturbing) place were in fact the hormones your body produced, say, while you were scared shitless watching your nut wander out of a crack from the rope drag. And when you’ve spent all of that supply, you’re out of stock. And any kind of hangover hurts.

I always despised how non-climbers throw around the term „adrenaline junkies“, because what I associate with it are people going for the immediate kick you may get from BASE jumping or any speed associated sport. And climbing is most often not like that. It is stop-and-go, it is slow, with room for analysis and turning around, it is down climbing because you’re scared, it is long hours spent shivering at the belay. But nonetheless somehow your body releases adrenaline and a bunch of other hormones, and you get addicted to these hormones.

And when they drop, you drop.

Personally, I am especially susceptible to any kind of emotion, so rest day depression hits me pretty hard. Everything is grey. The shine is gone. I feel empty. Then, rest days often coincide with rainy weather. Doesn’t help. Sometimes I doubt the purpose of climbing itself. I cannot concentrate. All I want to do is hide. Even knowing it will pass doesn’t make it much easier to bear.

However, I might have found an explanation for the hole I fall into when I don’t climb for a couple of days. And it’s not that I want to go climbing all that much. I don’t always feel the need to go climbing like so many people do, especially when they’ve recently started. But, when I do, eventually I feel a lifting of the fog that descended shortly after the last time I climbed.