What a funny year. What a dangerous year. I'm really quite pleased to be looking back at 2011. It was a horrible year really. There were a lot of really great times, loads of new discoveries and I feel a much better person for all the experiences of last year, but there are some rather indelible scars 2011 has left me with.
There have been some pretty big changes in my personal life, namely moving to Austria and splitting up with my girlfriend, that have unsurprisingly had some effects on my climbing; or maybe they are all indicators of a changing me.
The year started with bad form and very little climbing, culminating in me nearly dying at Tintwistle. This isn't some romantic exaggeration to try and talk about the wonders of the inner workings of the climber's mind, but a reality. The odds would have dictated death was more than likely, but for some reason (or lack of reason) I survived. At the time I didn't think this had affected me at all. I still climbed. I still had a laugh. I still went out and listened to trance music. But on reflection it definitely had an affect on me.
Fast forward 5 months, through a few uneventful new routes and messing around on the welsh testpieces and classics such as poetry pink, and I'm in the alps with Luke. I love climbing with Luke. He's bold when he needs to be, compassionate, really keen and he is kind of the father figure in my climbing. It had been a long time since I had climbed with Luke and it was great to think that I was heading out to the alps with him and his medic friends, who are equally eccentric and interesting. Dave missed this one out, but he was back at home and waiting for 3 weeks on god's own rock afterwards.
Then it all went disastrously. After just over a week of lots of good ticks and making the best of bad weather, we tried Gulliver's travels on the Grand Capucin. I could retell the tale of the great form we were on, and our climbing that gave us cause to be arrogant, but when I think back to that day it is a minor detail in what was basically a totally shit day out. 'Shit' doesn't really do the day justice actually; perhaps 'horrifying' in the true sense of the word is better. In fact when I hear the word horror, I think to that day.
It was the first time I have experienced real horror I think. I have thought before that I was about to die- I have thought before that I had actually died, but this was different. Whatever pain you endure yourself is a pittance in comparison to seeing another's pain. You don't really hear a lot about how it feels to see your friend die before your very eyes. It's not a very popular subject for some reason. This might seem like exaggeration again, Luke is not only alive, but completely fine, so what the hell am I on about? I don't really know. But that old saying 'whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' is complete bollocks. I may perhaps be a weak-minded individual, but I have got kind of tired of thinking my close friends are dead. Climbing is a game after all and I think climbing in the forever-melting alps is a ridiculous one.
This was then contrasted by our return to England- the magical, peaceful and fruitful valleys of the north york moors. People like to pretend that there is nothing in the UK left to explore, that there is no climbing in the Moors worth probing and developing. Maybe that's true, who knows? All I know is that the 4 weeks after the alps were some of the happiest of my life. I could climb all day with good friends, develop new crags and then go out at evenings for a lot of beer.It didn't even matter that some of the routes we put up turned out to be massive soft touches. The moors is my home. I understand the people and the rock. The faint grooves and impossible aretes inspire me. They make me happy. Recently we have also found a new crag, which promises more happy future memories, away from the terror of the alps.
Horror, horrifying and horrific. Terror, Terrifying and Terrific. The positives are rarer than pain in life and the moors is the natural spring for optimism and happiness I think.
So with every year I get closer to the perfect balance, or perhaps I am nearing total derangement? I have cause to be happy again in my life and when it comes to climbing I know that a couple of really classic new routes a year makes me a lot happier than a cohort of generic nails testpieces. Delusion on the bounty.