When Sharona’s relationship ended, she had to find the strength to redefine her passion for climbing and adventure without a partner by her side.


On a Sunday night at the start of spring, I check my phone to find out that my boyfriend of two years has broken up with me over Facebook Messenger.

It does not seem right for Mark Zuckerberg to be involved, in any capacity whatsoever, in the dissolution of my relationship. But this is, apparently, the world we live in now.

I call him, cry. Call my best friend, cry. Get chips from Oporto for dinner, cry some more. Eventually, exhausted, I fall asleep. Red Rocks is not on my mind, yet.


My ex and I met at the Crossfit gym in Braddon, but we fell in love at the bouldering gym we both frequented alongside every human being in Canberra aged between 18 and 40.

He had one climbing outfit: grey track pants, and a yellow T-shirt with holes in it. I found it deeply charming. He was Russian, so for weeks while we flirted, I took great pleasure in telling my friends, ‘I’m crushin’ on a Russian’.


What Happens When Your Partner and Adventure Buddy Leaves? Sharona Lin, red rocks, person walking on trail, canberra, murrumbidgee river


On our first is-this-a-date-or-are-we-just-hanging-out, he taught me to sport climb at Tianjara Falls. He was a good teacher; he’d taught mountaineering and climbing in Russia.

‘Step into the harness. The carabiner should face this way. Now tie a double-figure eight knot.’ 

And so on, and so on.


From August to December, Peregrine falcons nest in the cliffs of Red Rocks. When I was in primary school, I read that Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world.

As they dive for prey, they reach speeds of more than 300km an hour.  Sometimes when they dive for prey, they aren’t able to pull out of the dive in time.

What a way to go.


There’s a certain intimacy to climbing with someone. A certain trust you hand over to someone who holds the rope you’re attached to. Because at some point, you’re going to fall. And when you do, you want your belayer to have you. 

Belaying can be utilitarian too, of course. Anyone who’s been to a kid’s birthday at a climbing gym knows that. Anyone can, theoretically, belay anyone. But when you climb with someone a lot – especially with a romantic partner – you develop a rhythm and connection.

They’re your counterweight, keeping you on the rock. They know when you need more rope or less; when to egg you on and when to give you space. They know you.

There’s something really special about that.


For months after the breakup, my heart beats faster every time I see a beat-up white Subaru Outback – you know, the ones that are always inexplicably dented in the back right bumper. 

For months, I can’t really camp or climb or adventure the same way anymore.  Part of that is practical. He owned most of our gear (the ropes, the belaying devices, the tent). He also owned a sense of direction, which I absolutely do not.


And part of that is emotional. Adventuring feels inextricably bound up with our relationship. I learned to sport climb from him – how to size up a climb, how to lead, and how to take a fall. 

And for months the article that I’ve promised to write about my (our) microadventure to Red Rocks sits in my drafts, like a spider trapped under a glass.


I knew a girl who took a bad fall while climbing. As she fell, her weight jerked her belayer upwards, off the ground. Her belayer – self-preservation instincts kicking in – let go of the rope to protect their own head. 

With no one on the other side of the rope as a counterweight, the girl kept falling and hit the ground. 

She wasn’t seriously hurt, but I don’t think she’s climbed since the fall.

This isn’t a metaphor for anything. I just think it’s important to tell you that story to say that all this belaytionship talk isn’t just me being dramatic.


I was meant to write about Red Rocks for We Are Explorers, but I never wrote about Red Rocks.

Here is my draft:


Red Rocks Microadventure


  • A short half-hour drive away from the centre of Canberra
  • Stunning red walls
  • Choose your own adventure.


Now That’s Writing™, Folks.

After months and months of failing to write about Red Rocks, I tell my editor that I really can’t write the microadventure that I promised to write. That would involve going back to Red Rocks, which I don’t think I’m equipped for – emotionally, or technically.

But, I say, what about a piece about when your belaytionship ends? Amy is a saint and says yes, write about that. 


I do want to tell you about Red Rocks. This is the adventure.

On a nice, late summer Saturday, you drive 30 minutes from Canberra. You bring everything you need for climbing and swimming in your backpacks.

You walk the Murrumbidgee Discovery Trail until you see the cliffs on your left. They are, as promised, red. They are beautiful.

You walk down to the river. It used to be much lower but the last few summers have been rainy, so you can’t just hop or walk across the river like people used to. You strip down, you pack all your gear into dry bags, and you swim.



You dry out quickly in the summer sun and you climb all afternoon. You fall asleep and get burned in the afternoon sunlight.

You get back home tired and happy.

Months later, your boyfriend breaks up with you and you don’t really know how to climb or adventure without him. It takes a while to get over it (maybe a long while).

And then maybe months after that, you try some outdoor bouldering, or you buy a surfboard and spend a few weekends wiping out, or you go out sport climbing again and someone else belays you, and it’s fine, it’s okay.

That’s the adventure.