I have just walked in the door with my friend David. We are both fatigued and in need of a cup of tea and/or a beer…….not quite sure yet, but I know I have to have something to relax me and calm me down. I am really tired and I have not been this tired from climbing for a very long time. David took me out today on my first real British trad climbing adventure and it scared me a little.
I am, and have always been……….a sports bumbly. I have never been anything else and I would never profess to be anything else. I like clipping bolts and I enjoy climbing hard……but this was a different hard. This was “old skool” climbing on gear that you place on your way up the route.
We headed out at about 8:30am today and made our way to the South end of the Peak District to climb at a crag called High Tor. Tor means a hill or rocky peak in ye olde English. Our goal today was to complete two routes. They where “Original Route” HVS 5a and “Debauchery” E1 5b.
“Original Route” is described as “A right of passage“ for all HVS leaders, the exposure on the huge face is well felt……… “Debauchery” is described as “One of the top ten “E1’s” in the country. So David had definitely picked a couple of fiery classic to test my mettle on.
David tied in and we did our safety checks and off he went straight up the rock ledge that led to the base of “Original Route”. Getting a good stance he placed a couple of pieces of gear and climbed onward and upward. 35 years of experience certainly makes this heady test piece look relatively easy. This 35 metre route was done and dusted in a very short amount of time and it was now my turn to climb up and meet David at the anchors that we would later abseil off back to the ground.
I stepped on to the rock ledge and headed for the base of the wall. As I pulled on I got a very strange rush of anxiety, which I don’t get on sports routes. It was simply the fact that I was climbing on gear and I was not trusting myself at all. I was questioning everything that I knew about the sport that I loved. As I climbed I was over-gripping and not using my feet well. I felt like I weighed 20 kgs heavier.
I continued up, removing David’s placements and working through my cerebral overload. This was a new game altogether. I had done a couple of trad routes prior to this in my travels as a climber, but this was certainly different for me. Reaching the belay ledge, where David was standing and smiling. I said “Jesus that was a trial by fire experience and I was seconding it.” Ten minutes later we were back on the ground after a successful abseil.
We had a quick bite to eat and then tied in and David led “Debauchery”. A thrilling traverse out into the left hand abyss that is the main wall at High Tor. Cruising through the traverse and then settling into the belay position, he yelled “SAFE”. Five minutes later I was about to climb and I was really nervous. I just simply understood very well that I was scared and feeling very out of my depth.
As I moved up and across the traverse I realised that my mind was definitely playing with me and I was over thinking the whole thing. Its hard to be calm and execute your technique well when you are having very unreasonable thoughts. Today was just a matter of dive into the experience and feel every single bit of it. God I felt like such a wimp.
I have never heard any of my climbing heroes say they are scared or that they feel completely gripped, but I am happy to say that I have heard my climbing mates say it before. I totally enjoyed my day and I now appreciate and admire the incredible mental toughness that the men and women who went before me in this game displayed…….
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela