Sunday, 31 August 2014

Climbing, the rock

Well, this is my first blog in two years, over those years I occasionally look back at my old posts and smile, sometimes they make me feel sad too.

My last blog in particular pulls at the heart strings, I guess. It takes a look at the previous three years of my life. Years that really shaped me into the person that sits here typing away. I finish by stating I can't imagine living anywhere but North Wales... Unsurprisingly, I no longer live in North Wales, I now live in another of the UK's climbing meccas; Sheffield.

Apart from the climbing, one thing that features heavily in the previous blog is Jess. Jess is the reason I chose to leave North Wales, and after we broke up I felt stranded in this city away from the mountains and sea of North Wales that I love so much. But I'm not going back, not for the foreseeable future.

After a great day at Sharpnose, I couldn't resist one
more route. (c) GuyVG
2014 has been a bit of a rough year so far, and yet also one of the best. I have lost both my girlfriend, and shortly after my job. Although in reality people go through a lot worse, I have had a fortunate life with few major disruptions like this, so to have two come along so quickly definitely knocked me off balance for a little while. Whilst I write this, I am sorting through a few more smaller life disturbances that I won't go into. Yet I can't help but feel 2014 has been a golden year - am I damaged?

Whilst I fell out of love with someone I loved a lot, and lost a job I thought would suit me for the rest of my life, I relearnt something I had known all along but lost sight of. I fell head over heels back in love with rock climbing. I vividly remember when I started climbing, in comparison to the last 5 years I did it very infrequently, but my passion for it was all-encompassing. It defined me, every time I went climbing my self-confidence grew, I felt like I had found what I was born to do, I had delusions of grandeur. By the time I had finished my first year of uni, I had transformed from a person I didn't want to be into someone I wanted to be.

Somewhere in the past few years, although very much a climber and very much in love with it, my passion wained and I often wondered if I would stop climbing, I thought that eventually it would take second place to other more important aspects of my life. I questioned whether I was a true "lifer", even though everyone else would say I was, I was never sure. Despite the fact that when I didn't want to go climbing something deep inside would force me too, I doubted the power of climbing. Yet time and time again, I would still end up wanting to put climbing before all else.

Starting up Head Hunter, E5 6a (c) GuyVG
Recently, I have hit a real purple patch with my climbing and for the first time in many years felt real progress. I have progressed every year in some way, but this year my passion fired up as my life fell apart. This in itself is progress as I often looked to shy away from challenges in previous years. In the end it lead to me climbing what I consider to be my first E5. Head Hunter, in the very atmospheric Huntsman's Leap, Pembroke, has been a route I have dreamt of doing for a year or so now. Situated in my favourite crag it weaves a bold, technical line up the pink West Wall. It didn't disappoint. Upon topping out I felt a deep satisfaction that as a climber I rarely feel. The next day I climbed Deep Space, a wild E2 that made me grin from ear to ear. Climbing is good, the grade irrelevant.

What the last few months have taught me is actually just how much climbing means to me. In many ways this is a little worrying. I now know that I am unlikely to ever live a normal life that I imagine my family wish for me. My future definitely looks a lot less certain than it ever has before, I thought I'd find this scary, but in reality I feel free.

This all probably sounds pretty depressing, but in recent months I have found that there are definitely other people out there, however long or short our paths cross for is less important than the fact they did cross. When I had my job and Jess, I thought that that was it for the rest of my life, no more major changes. Instead there is more life out there to live, many more people to meet, places to see, parties to have and routes to climb. More adventure. I am only 24, the thought that I was set for life was actually unsettling rather than comforting.

I have now realised where my priorities lie and that climbing is the thing that will pull me through life and give it probably its only real direction. Money holds little value to me, as long as I can go climbing. A big house has little value to me, as long as I live near crags. Expensive, flashy things are worthless in comparison to memories. What I have known all along is that happiness is key and that it is rarely bought.

Happiness (c) GuyVG

I don't know when I will next write another blog. But something compelled me to write this down. Climbing is a dangerous thing, however. I don't mean physically though obviously that too. You have to be careful not to measure your self-worth by your climbing ability - something that I think losing my job at UKClimbing has helped me shed. I often felt unworthy of the job having not climbed 'E5' - a big goal/deal for me, yet this held me back. You have to enjoy climbing for what it is, not for some ego boost.

My new attitude towards life is summed up by the following (lame) phrase:

"If you don't shoot, you won't score" - could be interesting to see where that takes me.

What am I going to do in the future? The only certain is that I'll be climbing, and having a right good time with my best friends, and I guess that is actually all that matters. I'll still be the same as I've always been, and I still know that there is more to life than climbing, but for better or worse, climbing is the rock.

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