Low Psyche? OR, is climbing not for me?
You know, recently, just recently, I have been noticing that climbing isn't quite as good as it used to seem.
Fuck the neverendum, this is something approaching crisis.
Now, climbing is not the first lifestyle hobby I have ever had. Prior to climbing I was well into botanical illustration, of all things. I used to love it, obsessively drawing and watercolouring tiny plants in rooms full of old ladies. I wasn't amazing at it, but I wasn't bad either, and the teacher seemed to think I had some potential. In fact, I was there because the teacher - Christine Grey-Wilson - was one of the gnarliest people I have ever met.
Her and her husband used to do the Kew Gardens plant hunting expeditions, and Christine had a plausible yeti story, had been appraised as being worth twenty camels in Kazakhstan, her husband Chris was mates with Bonington-era Himalayan doctors called Barney. They were very very posh, couldn't give a rip about anything not plants and generally lived life on their own terms.
I loved it when the himalayan stories got going, and I would sit there, sketching an orchid and fantasising about going on expeditions into the high Arctic to draw unknown species of plants.
The I realised that it wasn't the 1920s any more, Mallory was dead, and if I wanted to get out to the hills, the best way was to go to the hills and not wait to be invited.
Plus, critically, I had reached the point - and any climber will be familiar with this - where I had stopped the initial rapid improvement that takes you from beginner to average-with-talent. Now I would need to work at it, and work hard.
I shat myself, found climbing and never went back.
Now, climbing rapidly became everything I ever wanted it to be. It was cool, I had some talent at it, and rapidly made a load of really good friends. This time, they were roughly my own age! although with no yeti stories.
I flung myself into it, and it has become an important part of my identity. I cannot get enough of climbing, it does everything I want. I have never been healthier, never had better muscles, never had better fun...
So what the fuck has happened? What are the symptoms doctor?
|Not psyched. Good photo though.|
I came back from Wales having had an awesome week of achievement, including Supermassive Black Hole which has been my ambition for the last two years. But I dogged it. I did the moves clean when I got my nerve up to try them, but I just couldn't commit to the crux, so rested on the rope. Not that the climbing was easy, and I was pleased with what I had done but...
Then again, I did have a fucked back. My disc injury had flared up, and I was necking quantities of ibuprofen that even the party animals of the eighties would have been scared by.
Then I started going back to Highball. There was nothing wrong with Highball! It was the same place - although busier. But I started dicking about with what nights I climbed, trying to find nights, when I could reasonably warm up on easier circuits without wading through mobs of welcome new converts.
I have been getting hotter and lazier each session, finding excuses for having a chat, when previously I was finding excuses to cut conversations short. Oh I am a better person, no doubt, but if I wanted to be a better person I would start by being less grumpy with The Boy.
And then, I started skipping nights too. I regularly work in North Norfolk, and the drive is the same as from Thetford Forest to the wall, so I would treat it as normal, squeezing extra nights climbing in because I didn't have to justify to Our Lass why I was heading out again.
But this last time? I even set out and turned of for home at Fakenham, anxious to see The Boy so I could shout at him.
And tonight? The roads around Watton were flooded, and in fairness I was worried about being one of the dickheads on the local news who flood their engines out. But I used to be so determined that I would have ditched the motor and waded the last few miles with my rock shoes tied around my neck.
Most worryingly, I have found my attention wandering away from slate, and a faint curiosity about what it would be like to climb on limestone. I don't want to! Its just I have been wondering what it would be like...
Next weekend I am going for a weekend on the slate. This will be a big test. Have I really lost my heart for it all, or can the spark be rekindled into a bonfire - NO! a BLAST FURNACE! of climbing psyche.
One thing is for sure. I will be blogging AAAALLLLL about it, in tedious angsty First World detail. Keep reading people!