I Rock Climbed in Sedona—and Got up Close to the Area's Famed Energy Vortexes

The vortexes are said to guide those who seek them. I quickly became a seeker

Sedona Rock Climbing

Doug Berry / Getty Images

We’re dedicating our May features to the outdoors and adventure. In the past two years, we saw more people get outside, eager for fresh air and new trails. Now, read this month’s features to learn more about rock climbing among Sedona’s famed energy vortexes, the micro-adventures you can incorporate into your everyday life, what to do about number two in the wilderness, and more.

It was a Sunday in Sedona, Arizona, and a dry heat was sweltering all around me. A drizzle of sweat made its home on my forehead, but the weather didn't solely cause it. I was decked out in climbing gear, ready for my first ever rock climbing experience, terrified.

While I had dabbled in indoor gym climbing at children’s birthday parties in my youth, I had never scaled any outdoor boulder before. The giant rocks jutted out of the desert landscape, beckoning me to try and tame them. My heart pounded in my chest as I tilted my head back and looked up, up, up to see what I had signed up for.

Encompassed by towering red cliffs, deep green forests, and an electric blue sky, my surroundings felt otherworldly, and it was no surprise. Sedona's natural beauty is well known to travelers around the world. Attributed to natural sculpting by sea and sand, the area is nothing short of bewitching, perhaps in more ways than one.

Many believe that Sedona is the setting of four mysterious energy fields, places where the earth's cosmic power lines met to create energy vortexes. The vortexes are said to be spots on earth vibrating with energy conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration. Native peoples such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Yavapai first recognized these hot spots and spent hundreds of years honoring the land by performing sacred ceremonies and rituals.

Sedona's vortexes are said to be spots on earth that are vibrating with energy conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration.

Today, Sedona's red rocks have become a major attraction for New Agers and those seeking spiritual or mystical guidance. On a quick stroll through Sedona's downtown area, one will inevitably pass by scores of metaphysical supply shops selling crystals, incense, tarot cards, and other spiritual staples. A cottage industry of vortex tours has cropped up in the area, hosted by guides who promise to lead travelers on spiritual journeys galvanized by Sedona's famed energy.

Had Sedona's legendary mystical prowess led to rapid over-commercialization? Some may argue yes. I knew that if this city girl was going to attempt rock climbing, there was no better place to do it than on healing, meditative rocks.

As our group hiked to our climbing spot, passing giant mountains and awe-inspiring vistas on the way, the endless landscapes of sandstone rocks looked unforgiving. If I fell, where would I land? I needed help. A lifeline. Anything. I found myself longing for something that would calm me and give me the courage to take that first step.

On that Sunday, like millions of other visitors to Sedona who came looking for guidance from the land, I became a seeker.

I took a deep breath, slipped on my climbing shoes, strapped myself into my harness, and listened intently as my guide explained the different ways to maneuver my feet and hands to scale the mountain. "Don't worry about your hands," she said. "Your hands will know where to go. It's all about trusting your feet and knowing they're going to find a spot to land."

On that Sunday, like millions of other visitors to Sedona who came looking for guidance from the land, I became a seeker.

I looked down at my feet, snug in a pair of climbing shoes whose rigid, pointed toes reminded me of the pointe shoes I wore as a young ballet student. Were these feet to be trusted? I shook my head, determined. I made it this far, and I wasn't giving up now. I lifted my left foot, which landed on a nearby crevice, closed my eyes, looked up, and raised my other foot.

Trust your feet, I thought.

Suddenly, a wave of calm washed over me. The pounding in my chest slowed to a steady thud rather than the shattering staccato of before. I looked up, and the blue sky seemed inviting. My mission never seemed more apparent. Before I knew it, my right foot followed my left, then vice versa. I focused on my hands. The sticky rubber on the soles of my climbing shoes never gave out, no matter how tiny a crack they landed on.

I soon found myself at the halfway point, then at the three-quarter mark of the rock. I was in awe of what my body was doing. The climbers next to me scrambled to the very top within minutes, then easily leaned back, relaxed their legs, and let their guides steer them down. I stopped where I was, content with my progress, and slowly began the process of propelling myself down.

Afterward, I felt proud of myself for facing my fears and trying something new. I don't know where that sudden courage and powerful sense of calm came from. But looking back on the experience, I can say I’ve climbed some of the most beautiful rocks in America and that something in those rocks may have been watching out for me.