Monday, 26 April 2010

Snakes & Ladders

I've realised in the last few days that I'm back to the place I was in a few years ago. I really thought I was near the place where I could stop soloing and settle down a bit but after the fall I need to rebuild my confidence and I've had to start almost from scratch, I can only describe it as feeling like landing on 99 in a game of Snakes and Ladders and shooting all the way down to the start.
I had the chance to settle into a nice relationship and possibly be happy but I knew what I'm going to have to put myself through to get back to a place in my climbing that I'm satisfied and it leaves me no room for anything else, I could've accepted the happiness and comfort offered, I wanted to but my drive wouldn't let me. Another terrible choice to make, I make the selfish choice and battle the rising regret.The choice leaves me feeling lonely and hurt but I know that's what I need to commit properly to playing the game again.

I headed up the Glen tonight to get back on an E4 that I'd done last year. I decided it would be a good solo and my friend Miriam came along to take some shots. I did it once on my shunt and decided to pull the rope and ready for the solo. As I tried to get my head in gear I almost began to question whether this was what I wanted anymore but as I looked up the route and knew how soloing it would make me feel the doubt began to dwindle. I needed to get my act together, stop being weak and just do it. The feelings of anger and self hate always help in this situation. Time to do it................
Soloing Fingertip Finale E4, Glen Nevis, just after the crux

The higher I climbed and more committed to the route I was the happier I became. I hate what I have to do to be capable of this but how it makes me feel is very much worth it. I know I'm now looking at a lot of suffering to get to a place I can finally feel peace but I also know it must be what I'm actually meant to do because of what I'm willing to let go to do it.

Near the top out

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Auld Triangle

I eventually got back to proper climbing on Saturday and back to the old familiar feelings of fear, commitment and relief.
FEAR:- Going back to soloing I had to deal with my fear after the fall. I knew I had to do this as soon as possible as I was beginning to wonder if I'd lost my bottle and without that I know I couldn't climb well. As I was psyching up for the solo I had a flashback to the fall and it was a real mental battle to erase that image from my mind but good mental exercise...........
Dealing with the fear and flashback

COMMITMENT:- I know I couldn't have walked away from trying this route again, I knew I had to totally commit myself to doing it, no matter the outcome I had to at least try. I had to go back to almost the darkest days of my life to find the level of motivation I need to take risks. I have to remember that I cant care more about dying than living, if I had just went home and decided to never climb solo etc again I wouldn't really be living. I consider myself very lucky get this from climbing, that I've discovered something I consider to be worth taking such risks for. So I got on the route and climbed nervously to just before the crux, I could change my mind at this point, I'm shaking, I'm beginning to doubt myself, I feel sick, my stomach churns and my hands have cold sweat. I really begin to do battle with myself and I realise if I bottle it now I may never manage to fully get back into the game. I commit and it goes smoothly...........
Just after the crux move on the Arete E3, Quadrocks, Largs

RELIEF:-As you can visibly see in the pic below I'm relieved to have made it. I cant even really remember pausing here my mind was racing with so many emotions. I feel so glad to be back in the game now, to know I still have the mental reserve to solo and to once again have the feeling of contentment that only climbing now gives me.
I doubt I could explain correctly just how I feel in this pic

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Trying to Quieten The Animal

I hardly slept a wink last night with excitement due to the prospect of getting on a long term project in Glen Nevis. When I opened the curtains though the place was soaking, regardless I headed up but the Glen was still in the grip of winter and with the sun coming out the route was showing no signs of drying. After getting so psyched up I had to vent the accumulated feelings in some way so I proceeded to try some of the training in Stevie Hastons latest article in Climb Magazine, it did the job and I made myself suffer accordingly for my failure to climb today.

Training on the wall, suppressing feelings of inadequacy for not climbing

I've always enjoyed training for it's ability to hurt me. I don't like training simply to feel fit or strong, I only like it when I'm pushing myself to breaking point. For example when training on the wall for winter I've held onto my axes till my hands bled and I was very close to passing out. Only in this way do I feel I have purged the weakness from my body and mind. I guess there's a fine line between self-fulfilment and self-harm.

I'm drawn to climbing because of it's inherent risk , it's ability to give me peace from myself and the general feeling of freedom involved (especially in Scotland). So when I can't feed myself a diet of these ingredients I need something to fill that growling space and hard training seems to be the only way I'm capable of quietening that appetite until I get the full meal that climbing provides.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Making The Cut

When I began climbing I was a pretty weak character. I was working in a boring job, drinking a lot and moving in murky circles. Climbing at the time was simply something a bit different for me to do every now and then almost something to make me realise I was actually alive. Then I did my first proper winter route and I woke up from the losers sleep I had been in. The next wake up call came when an old lad at my work retired, he had been there since school, saved his cash, hardly any holidays or sick days and he was proud of this I heard people speak of this as if it was a life well lived and it horrified me. He got 2 months retirement before he dropped dead in the garden..........I quit the following week and haven't had a serious job since.

On my first winter route, Ben Nevis. Pic-Rob Jarvis , Highland Guides.

After this I pretty much committed myself to a life less ordinary and pursuing full time climbing was the perfect excuse to avoid the soul crushing 9-5 living for the weekend crap I had been doing. I was naive to think at that time that I understood commitment. I spent a couple of years trying to climb hard and learn what I could then I read 'Kiss or Kill' by Mark Twight. This book has changed my life without a shadow of a doubt. I learned to accept what I was becoming by reading this and also began to understand ,even embrace it. It forced me to face up to my being selfish and ruthless but not to be ashamed of it but to use it to good effect. The main point I took from it was what he called 'The attitude of the knife' , cutting away all that holds us back. I took to this new attitude like I couldn't believe. Getting rid of everything that was holding me back at the time and I revelled in it's brutal coldness.

In the winter of 2005 I took the cutting attitude to a new level and one that finally marked a point where I was crossing a line and giving into climbing. I went on a trip to Austria and while climbing with my prosthetic I realised that a digit on my disabled hand was catching inside my cast. As soon as I returned home I had an operation to have it removed. This confirmed to me that if I can go so far as to have digits removed then climbing was what I really wanted in life. There is very little left in my life from my pre-climbing days....................

Nearly There

In the past few weeks I've been trying to get back into the game. I got back up the Glen and simply top-roped some routes to start building up my confidence again before a hopeful season of hard and bold climbing. I've also been doing short walks and runs but ended up getting Plantar Faciitis which is a tendon injury, great times. Hopefully I'll have more to write about after the weekend.