nr's blog

Fear and Loathing in Hatfield 18 February, 2008

Filed under: Indoor climbing — nr @ 10:57 am

(Before I start, an apology about the title of this entry. I know it’s a tired old cliche, and a quick search reveals literally millions of “fear and loathing in <placename>” web pages around. My excuse is that it’s Monday morning, I’m a bit tired, and in desperate need of tea).

Any road up. Last Friday was another trip to Hatfield, to meet up with Sol and Kev. I may have to start limiting my trips there because it’s costing me a fortune in petrol, which is a shame as I thoroughly enjoy climbing there. But, onto topic one of todays drivel: Fear. I noticed something odd while attempting a new route on Friday. I got about halfway, up to the crux which was a couple of balancey moves to grab a hold around an overhang and pull myself over. Nothing that I’ve not done before on other similarly graded routes, but I got up to it, looked at it, tried it, came down, looked again, came down, and pondered. In the end I realised that I wasn’t going to get it, so I bailed out, and Kev whipped up to the top to retrieve the gear I’d left behind. While he was on the move that flummoxed me, I watched carefully and closely, and when he got down, I told him to leave the top rope up and I’d try it on top rope now that I knew the sequence of moves I needed. While I won’t say it was easy, it really did get me wondering why I couldn’t work out the sequence on the onsight approach. And the more I thought about it, the more it confused me, for one main reason. I’m normally pretty good at making on sight choices regarding risk and action. When I raced bikes, I could pretty much guarantee that on the first race on a new track, I could get a top three finish while everyone else was struggling to learn the circuit. By the end of the meeting I’d be back in my customary midfield obscurity as all the proper racers learned the track and used that knowledge to good effect.

So, why can’t I apply this ability to climbing? My theory is that it’s easier to rationalise falling off a motorcycle than falling off a cliff, and for that I blame evolution. Falling off a cliff is a much more primal fear than falling off a motorcycle, and so the brain is harder to retrain to accept and rationalise the risk. I rather think the only way I can overcome this little problem is actually by falling off a good few times and attempting to get used to it.

Loathing? The cafe closed up early and wouldn’t sell me tea. No excuses, no apologies, nothing. Don’t they realise how important a good cup of tea is to the modern climber? (Well, to me at any rate).

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