Unbuyable: you've got to go and find it.
Climbing is a pointless activity, and it doesn't pretend not to be. Our motives get dressed up as noble attempts to 'overcome' and 'transcend', which is down to people not feeling that 'really, really liking it' is enough of a reason.
On the internet last week, Alastair Humphreys shared a video by a little known artist, comedian, actor and filmmaker called Jeff Seal. This video had been picked up by a New York City website called Gothamist, and so found the wider world. Its billed as 'Watch this self-confessed idiot hop freight trains to Montauk', and is played for laughs a bit. Before you read any more of the blog, watch it now: HERE.
Did you see that? Idiot? is he fuck, he's a genius. A perfect five minutes of adventure and honesty, with trains and beautiful views. Fuck yeah.
The best bit of the whole thing is pretty subtle and easy to miss: its where his voice-over says
"I think what I like most about train-hopping is you see and experience things so few people ever do. I mean look at that view, anyone can pay to go sky-diving or buy a plane ticket and take a picture of themselves in front of Machu Pichu, but you can't buy a ticket to go train-hopping. Its something you have to seek out and learn how to do. And its always a guaranteed adventure.'
That is it. You can't buy it.
Our world is full of very prescriptive instructions about how to live your life, and usually this directly translates to 'how you should spend your money on shit you don't need'. We can't think of anything to do that doesn't involve spending money, and that is a bit fucking shit.
Even then, think how hard it is to actually book up to travel round the world. I mean , not actually, you click a fucking mouse and some numbers on a screen change, and then you would be allowed on a certain plane if you showed up with the right ID. But how many people actually have enough money RIGHT NOW to book a trip, and instead are saving it so the last twenty years of their life aren't a desperate choice between heat and food?
Even harder is taking the action to go and break the law, in a tiny, non-harming way, in order to do something other people aren't, then video it with a camera stuck to the top of a gold football helmet.
What I like about climbing is the unbuyable aspect of it. You probably do need to initially spend some money . You'll need a harness, rope and probably some instruction, but that won't cost the deposit on a house. But after that, its up to you. Getting on that rock is free, but has to be sought out.
As climbing has evolved it has become easier to spend money on kit, thinking that buying gear for your hobby is the same as doing it. Most people's rack, or clothing far far exceeds what the cutting edge climber had fifty years ago: so how come we aren't all doing El Cap or climbing E3 in Wales?
I have hardly been out on the rock this summer, and I suddenly realise that is no one's fault but mine. I stopped looking for ways to go out, stopped reading guidebooks to see what inspired me next. Climbing for me is not like mars bars, were if you eat enough you get full. It is like heroin: the more you have the more deeply addicted you become. If that's the case, then this summer I have been weening myself off, using the olympics like its methadone.
No more! Here I come rock, I am Off The Wagon!