nr's blog

Soul doubt 16 June, 2008

Filed under: Outdoor climbing — nr @ 9:18 pm

(Before I get going, another apology for the title of this post. A quick bit of searching has turned up at least four bands, a couple of songs, and a route by Adrian Berry of the same name).

So, what’s this? Two updates in two weeks? Obviously, I’ve been busy. Firstly I’ve been playing with my woody (why on earth a home climbing wall is called a woody is beyond me, but I’m going to get the most of of it with plenty of schoolboy jokes) which has been good fun, but also, as a Fathers Day treat, I got to spend the day at Dovestone Tor. Another early start was in order, as it’s the best part of a three hour drive up there, but it was such a beautiful clear morning that I was happy to be up and about at that time. At least, I was after a cup of tea. I don’t really feel a great deal before my first cup of tea to be honest. The normal stop for brekkie at the Leicester Forest services was as enjoyable as ever, given the green mould growing on my bacon sarnie. Note to self: never ever ever eat there again. And, by about 9am we were parked up at Foulstone Delf ready to walk up to the tor. I was looking forward to this nearly as much as the climbing, as I enjoy walking, and the novelty of walking somewhere with a hill was something to savour. At least, until I put my rucksack on. Somehow it managed to be small, uncomfortable, heavy, and impractical all at the same time. Serves me right for buying the cheapest one I could find at T.K. Maxx I guess. And, as I write this post the day after the event, I’ve already thrown it in the corner and ordered something else. Anyhow, the walk passed without too much incident, other than having to stop every 50 metres for Sol to consult his Satmap gadget. Given that there was only one path, and it was clearly defined, I reckon we could just have scraped through without it. (In fact, I’m just jealous. It’s a brilliant piece of kit, and if I had 300 quid burning a hole in my pocket, I’d buy one tomorrow).

So, we got to the Tor, made a cuppa, and tossed a coin to see who would lead first. Sol won, so geared up to lead Dovestone Edge, a Severe 4a through some nice features. He made it look easy. The start was very juggy with the best holds on gritstone, a good cam in a break just above, up through a slabby middle bit to a grassy ledge with a good small nut placement, then a nice couple of breaks for a big nut, up another easy slab to the top. Easy. So easy in fact that I skipped up it on second in about three minutes flat, even though I had to spend two minutes retrieving the second nut from a particularly tenacious placement. Brilliant. Just what the doctor ordered as the start to the day. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that we ran back down to the bottom so I could lead it too.

Only I didn’t. I got established on about the second move, and just froze. Despite there being the biggest and best holds I’ve ever found outside, I just couldn’t commit to move above a point I could easily reverse without any protection. I tried about 5 times. I even tried bodging some protection in for the second move, even though of course, it would have done nothing in practical terms. I tried again, and again. I must have spent twenty minutes going up a metre and a half and coming back down again. Sol got through two cigarettes before I called it a day. Why was this happening? I knew I could climb it, and very easily too. I just couldn’t get past that stage of doubt, knowing that it would be difficult to reverse the first couple of moves if I got into trouble before the first protection. I was determined not to beat myself up about it, but it’s pretty disappointing knowing that I’d given up on something easily within my capability without giving it a decent try. So, instead, I decided to have a go at another nearby route. So, Poll Taxed was chosen, and although I had a slight hesitation on the first moves again, once I got going it was easy. So much so that I don’t think I bothered placing any gear after about the first third of the route. Not that it mattered much, as it turned out that the gear I placed was rubbish and most of it fell out anyway. Note to self 2: get some more practice placing gear…

Sol flew up on second, and we headed off right, as he fancied a go at Talon. This one really put up a fight, and after a tactical retreat to the right, Sol decided to call it a day as he was knackered, and we both needed some lunch and more tea. After lunch we decided to have a go at some bouldering problems around the tor, as neither of us had ever done much bouldering, and there were some cracking looking rocks around the place. There’s not really much to report here really, other than that we found a rock with the abrasive qualities of a cheesegrater, and that years of washing dishes in Fairy Liquid have left my hands way too soft to ever be any good at bouldering. Still, it was good to work on a few short problems rather than screw myself up again by failing dismally on another easy lead.

Somewhere or other there’s a great piece of writing by John Redhead about the doubt in climbing, and how confronting this doubt is good for the soul. At the moment, I feel like I’m running away from it rather than confronting it. And I don’t think that any amount of soul-searching is going to help me here. I just need to get out there and scare myself on something. Looking at it pragmatically, what’s the worst that can happen?

(Note to self 3: stop trying to use Safari to edit this blog, as it screws up the formatting. I should have remembered that from last time).

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