Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Normally when I sit down at my computer I really do intend to do something productive, for instance uni work. It is however, pretty rare that I actually get around to it before checking my email half a dozen times, going around all the geeky climbing sites a couple of times and then scouring the blogosphere for snippets of wisdom. Today my favourite snippet was on where John Watson suggests that Dave Mac has created a new discipline within British mountaineering that could be described as ‘meta-climbing’. Meta being an area of study related to another subject of study, but going beyond it in some way.
John is clearly talking about Macleod’s entire approach to climbing, moving between disciplines with apparent ease. Whenever he returns to one he seems to up not only his own level but also Scotland’s level in that niche, pretty impressive really.
When Stone Country coined the phrase ‘meta-climbing’ the big news they were reporting was Dave’s recent ascent of Big Long Now(font 8b) in glen nevis. A 50 meter boulder problem! How queer. I can’t remember the last time I did a 50meter pitch on a route let alone a boulder problem. How can this possibly relate to say The Ace at stanage; a three move problem of a ‘similar’ difficulty only nothing’s similar about them. It’s like comparing a world record in long jump with one in middle distance running. It just doesn’t seem to mean anything calling it font anything. For sure a truly desperate link but to see it as a boulder problem seems to me strange. Why not call it a 9a route? I’d imagine it would be of more interest to sport climbers than boulderers. And so, if it’s not of interest to dedicated boulderers, who presumably have the best grip on bouldering grades, then its grade may as well not exist. This seems to draw some parallels to the problems of metaphysics where everyday language is used to attempt to describe a world beyond the limits of possible experience.
In many ways it seems a great pity that many of Macleod’s problems are so out of the way that other world class boulderers and sport climbers are never going to make it there to repeat them. They might be the hardest problems in the world but until glen nevis gets on the world map as a hardcore bouldering venue they seem to me to be of unknown value. Is Dave Graham going to visit when he’s over giving lectures?

1 comment: said...

Metaphysics - a blind man in a darkened room looking for a black hat that isn't there... climbers in sandals debating meta-climbing, who'd have thought!