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Written during the winter of 2011, I was at this stage, speaking
Today is the 27th of February and I’m due to be back in England in 13 days. After numerous trips away from the homeland since 2006, I get asked the eternal questions of “Well, how was it?, What did you learn? Did you have a good time? Hows it feel to be back in reality?” etc (Again & again)
These were met with the usual bug eyed bouts of enthusiasm and excitement, showing off a multitude of photos from the tumbling waves and tranquil forests to an increasing amount of rocks. It was clear from my absence from most of the photos that a chord was struck with the natural elements. (Embers smouldering and spirals turning).
I’d tell stories of all the craziness encountered with different cultures and spout ideals that only a babe, young and clean shaven could have thought, ideas so alien from his normal reality like a little lamb that wandered from its pastures for the first time.
But this year was different.
In the spring of 2011, after months of training, I left for Canada, alone with only my hopes and determination for company. Pretty soon, I discovered a sense of purpose, which is a powerful thing. I moved to Revelstoke, exploring the local climbing scene and ate up over a hundred routes in under three months but this was not enough. I was working construction during the day, climbing by evening and consuming as much mountain literature as my mental sponge could take. I was hard on the few friends I had if they had other commitments and lost them as a result. Clearly I needed a change of scene. This is where Squamish materialised into view.
On the west coast, I’m now standing under The Chief which is 500m (1,640ft) of soaring granite walls with boulders littered from refrigerator blocks to houses, within the sublime forests encircling the chief. Quite the experience. I was home.
From then on, I gave all my efforts to the mountain, looking to read all its intricacies and following its paths to the top. Some delightfully easy, some palm sweatingly hard but always, I felt small and humbled. Having climbed over 50 routes (summiting 5 times) and just under 60 boulder problems I was the most content I have ever been in my entire life. Surrounded with genuine souls and friends that understand that unsaid motivation.
So, what is it then? That ‘unsaid motivation’? Many, many climbers have tried to explain this. Some can, some simply can’t.
For me, I want to spend my life trying to describe why. It is such a profound feeling, one cannot simply say it was ‘Awesome’. Not only is it physically challenging but the most important aspect of climbing, for me, is the mental and in turn, the spiritual aspect. Climbing is a deep commitment for those who take it seriously, in every sense imaginable. On a dangerous route, for example, where a fall could mean broken limbs you must steele your mind and judge the situation to act as safely as you can. To go on, with courage, despite the exposure, because you know you have the strength.
On the other hand, true commitment extends far beyond the actual mountain. Every scrap of money made, every penny saved goes towards your ideal. Exposure to the natural elements bestows you with that forgotten respect for the old world, the love for other creatures and critters and unfortunately loud alarm bells, when our destructive tendencies reveal themselves. (I get the Greenpeace memos)
In our everyday lives, mankind strives to help make our lives easier by any means necessary. But on the mountain it is YOU who must adapt and bring yourself up to its standard. Without risk, there is no adventure. Courage, real courage in the face of your greatest fears is something deeply rooted in my quest to find a persons soulful integrity. Just what are we capable of?
“Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves”. – The legendary George Mallory.
I have a fleeting memory of a peaceful autumn afternoon. I’m sitting in El Cap meadow looking up at the mighty captain, 900m (3,000ft) of sweeping, clean granite trying to imagine what Royal Robbins & Warren Harding must have thought of this unclimbed behemoth. All that unknown territory before them. Truly inspiring, as they wanted to do it! Despite the enormous uncertainty. This is where we see the question as to why come up frequently. At this moment, all i can say is that climbing is not just an exciting past time, it’s a symbolic journey, and every time you go out on adventures, you learn something new. Lessons that can’t be taught, only experienced. (e.g, Removing the ego to make the best decisions, the bond forged between you and your partners and that all your actions have consequences). The mountains will always be the most noble and wise mentor if you want to listen.
So, after being ensconced with the climbing fraternity and a climbing partner during the fall, events lead to a bitter end and a lonesome dark start to the winter. Alone, where I started 8 months ago, I had to climb my way out of self doubt, anger and bitterness. You can be your worst enemy at times and your shining armour when you need it most. You are strong and have the tools to save yourself. As long as your honest.
Alpine climbing in 2012 is just around the corner and will bring me one step closer to my ultimate dream, which is materialising on the horizon. But first, I look forward to touching base with family and friends back in England.
Love to you all!