Saturday, 27 February 2016

How lonely can you get?

I love climbing people.

There's a man called Leif at Middlesborough wall. His wild hair sweeps a cascading fall. A consuming, cackling madness effuses. He spends most of his life underground. He drives to the lead-filled dales of times gone past, poking and prospecting for hours underground. He has the happy smile of a happy man. What little doubt exists, works but only to fuel his confidence.

There's another chap called Rob; an erect-haired, perma-smiled chuckler. He sports the silkware of the highest end of outdoor fashion. He mingles and bonds, twinkles and listens. His desire spawns from all forms and all places in climbing. He circulates in the hub of our world, in the epicentre of all creation and perpetuation. The clich├ęs are lived with such vigour and passion that a humble and true sense of reality is born.

There are then the calm, stern-faced folks who spend their lives stomping and trudging the county and North York Moors. They are mostly old. Some are young. Their scowl seldom breaks; only when a fantasised line pops into the conversation, but a warming love of contentness exists within. They oft feel in threat from the high-branded centrefolk, but these two groups have but very little difference between their passions.

My favourite is the wild optimism of the impassioned youth. No shackle of reality weighs them down. No distaining comments from an elder breaks their bubble. They rise a crazed optimist; intense and desperate in rushed mousebeats, searching without rest for something of meaning. They scream and slop poor feet on the wall. No pause is long enough for anxiety to permeate and the next thing is done before the last thing is finished. Energy brings out the rawest form of the soul.

To spend a life on the hills, alone, is to occasionally miss all these people.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Maintaining the Myth

I remember being in incredible awe when I started climbing. The North York Moors guidebook was the holy book and every name in it was that of a prophet. I remember reading the notes on the creation of 'Esmerelda' (E7 6c) and trying to put those recorded events together in my head. It was mind-altering. To picture the Tosh team tentatively aiding that blank canvass on improvised gear was one thing. To read of the blinding vision of Paul Smith to try and free the route was quite another. With the prowess and incredible strength of Richard Waterton, it was no surprise that he was the one who eventually managed to whittle the aid to naught. Nevertheless, all these three increments were milestones in Moors climbing and formed an indelible impression on my imagination.

Esmerelda was one route. There were others: Nick Dixon on Scut; Shorter and Redhead on Stratagem; Ingham on Psycho Syndicate; Dave Paul on The West Face. I'd later meet many of these men and be underwhelmed by their modest outlook and their fiercely personal motivations for climbing. Even after this however, I still saw their achievements as exceptional and inspiring.   To join that cannon and add to that myth in even a small way was beyond what I thought possible when I started climbing.  Furthermore, I began to worry whether what I was chasing was even real.

The word 'myth' is riddled with doubt. It speaks of a story that cannot be trusted. To live a myth implies delusion and wasted opportunity. In climbing terms, I see the patronising smile of those who are happy to have shaken the myth. For most, the drive to improve or seek a bolder experience dies with their youth. To continue seeking the myth you've created is to admit defeat in chasing what life is truly about. Or so the story goes.. I think that's wrong.

Every ounce of my Moors experience is a fiction. From the warming of the sun taking me back to my first visit to Park Nab, to the feeling of the tendon tweak on Psykovsky's blasting past talk of the impossible to the fore. It's all created, in some sense at least, out of the mind. There are other things in the world that boast a venire of reality; things that grind such a shackle on the soul that they surely must exist?  But in desperate times, even these crumble.

The greatest question any of us face is 'why climb?' It's easy to speak of egos and grades. It's easy to think of the next line you're grappling with, whilst forgetting all the things you've already done that once seemed so impossible. One's own past never seems as glorious as the future. I feel as I work towards things on the limits of my abilities, I must use what satisfaction I can take from past achievements and transplant them onto my adventures on this project; the highly constrained strengths I have stem entirely from past realities created in my head. To achieve the insane in the physical world, one must remember the mythical realities one has engineered.