Measuring physical strength is easy – how much can you lift, and how many times? I’m sure there’s an awful lot more to it than that, but in my simple, pink and fluffy world, that’s really all there is to it. So, in terms of strength, last nights trip to Hatfield was a resounding success – I climbed/belayed for three hours without having to back off any routes due to being knackered. I’m not sure how many routes I completed (it was either eight or nine, and I’m guessing the wall is thirteen or so metres high) mostly around 4c/5a. Which technically doesn’t sound that tricky, but I’m more than happy with that, thank you.
Mental strength is a different kettle of fish though. How do you measure it in respect to climbing? Well, I had a good test last night. We’d been climbing for a couple of hours, and I was wondering what to do next when Kev spotted a route up a well featured arete that neither of us had ever tried. It looked possible, so I decided to give it a go. About 1/3rd of the way up, I was thinking that some of the holds were a little crimpy, but that things were going well, and I should be able to get up without too much drama. Then, out above the penultimate bolt, things went wrong. The holds, which from the bottom had looked so inviting seemed now no more than crimpy little smeary marks on the surface. The one good hold was an undercut, which I couldn’t get into a suitable position to use. My left foot was slipping. All in all, it was not a good place to be, and I started to panic a bit. Now, a couple of months ago, at this point I would probably have just let go, taken the fall, and put it down to experience. But I didn’t. Despite being in physically a very uncomfortable position, I still had enough composure to take stock of the situation, steady myself, make a plan and get out of trouble. OK, it meant I took a hold on a neighbouring route, but it did mean I could reach the safety of the last bolt, and from then up to the lower off. And for me, this was a far more important test (and result) than the physical ability to climb strongly. When I later checked the grade it was a 5b, which is really a bit above what I know I can climb at the moment anyway, so I’m very happy that it went so well.
It’s worth noting that although my description makes it sound like an epic onsite attempt at Indian Face, I was in fact, about nine metres up with two metres of runout and obviously in no danger at all. I don’t care though – in my own little world it was an achievement of note, and that’s what counts for me.