However there has been a catch evident through-out this experiment. Delusions of grandeur, where one's imagination outstretches one's reach, caused many moments of heightened physical risk. This could be seen with the short-cut up the grades choosing boldness over difficulty, E1 5a, E2 5b, E3 5b, E4 5c.
"These are the numbers everyone else is doing so why shouldn't I?" I had asked myself but, as the bald angry man in Top Gun said, you end up "writing cheques your body can't cash" and soon I was taking ground-falls, ripping gear and frightening those around me. I was used to be people calling me sketchy before but only for aesthetic reasons, not for my safety. It took a trip round our beautiful sea cliffs to make me appreciate what I needed to do in order to gain experience, composure and to regain confidence.
However that isn't the real nub of the issue, that's to do with the delusions of the head. I sit here having come back from a sport climbing trip to Catalunya. When someone asks me 'how did it go?' I want to stare at them for a brief blank moment, grab the neck of their shirt and pulling them in slowly say - "I sucked and I failed to achieve". Instead I hush that down and say "Yeah good cheers, bit cold like". I hadn't really assessed these inner grumblings while I was away until about half way through when one of my trip partners highlighted how unrealistic my goals were. He was right, what the fuck was I doing? For years I must have got mixed up with all the pub talk, started placing my self much higher than reality. It was becoming apparent that I couldn't accept my relative low ability, an ability at which I can, if I so wished, enjoy years upon years of wonderful climbing at a reasonable level. This trip made me want to stop and look at what I'm chasing. Am I really looking for the next grade as a way to improve myself? Or, being painfully honest, is it that I'm just seeking clarification that I'm a committed climber through the arbitrary number I last got to the top of. I'm ashamed to say that it's probably the latter more than the former. Recognition and confession of this fact isn't liberating, it's embarrassing.
There's a climber in Sheffield called Tom Ripley, he doesn't climb very hard in the grand scheme of things but the experiences he seems to have had through his climbing life match those of climbers with BIG numbers under their belts, to my mind at least. I need to be more like Tom Ripley, I envy Tom Ripley. This doesn't mean i'm going to start jumping into the Irish sea anytime soon (hopefully Tom will write about that on here)
I suppose there isn't a conclusion to all this, aside from the blindingly obvious. I just want it out of my head, "you lose it if you talk about it". What do I want out of climbing? An identity. Is that identity based upon grades? No, so stop worrying about it.
I still want to climb 8a though.
- Luke Passer