Saturday, June 26, 2010

Climbing for the Enlightened?

“At 9 o’clock the next morning I sat in Omar (Bakri’s) living room while Omar played with his baby daughter.
‘What’s your daughter’s name?’ I asked him.
‘It is a difficult name for you to understand,’ said Omar.
‘Does it have an English translation?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ said Omar, ‘it translates into English as “The Black Flag of Islam”.’
‘Really?’ I said. ‘Your daughter’s name is the Black Flag of Islam?’
‘Yes,’ said Omar.
‘Really?’ I said.
There was a small pause.
‘You see,’ said Omar, ‘why our cultures can never integrate?’
(pp4-5, from ‘A Semi-Detached Ayatollah’ in Them, by Jon Ronson)

Climbers are a funny bunch, the way we split into different clans and slag the others off. I wonder if road cyclists slag downhill bikers off in the way that boulderers and traddies go at one another. I don’t know, maybe they do. I think that climbers behave this way because each sub movement is still struggling to form its own identity. Bouldering and alpinism are essentially completely different sports but they share a common heritage and it wasn’t so long ago that all climbers were all rounders; Jerry did the hardest cracks in Yosemite, won world cups, put up cutting edge sport climbs and boulder problems, soloed, headpointed, onsighted....
This is fine and perhaps a natural progression of the sport but it leads to some confusion over what a ‘good’ climber is. They gym rat is a training monster and is unlikely to be impressed but rather be jaded by his much weaker counterpart ripping it up on the boulders. Meanwhile the weak traddy thinks it’s sad that the training fiend has sacrificed so much to get where he is, and if the said training fiend happens to have the said traddy on a route the common response is ‘well I could’ve done that if I trained as hard as them’. Climber’s become stuck in Kuhnian Paradigms of what ‘good’ is. They’re reluctant to change their method and the moment the traddy starts serious training his excuse for failure looks weak.
Climbing is often seen as a selfish pursuit for personal gain but I think this is a misconception. Getting stronger (either mentally or physically) can be an egotistical wank-fest but genuine improvement comes only through tackling weakness, weaknesses often overlooked by X who surrounds himself with a pier group working from the same paradigm, and I think this embrace of weakness can be linked closely to one’s growth as a person. It’s hypocritical I know that I’m writing about personal growth and the abandonment of ego in a blog of all things, but did you really fail because you lacked strength in an obscure stabiliser muscle or just because you didn’t grit your teeth hard enough?
Last week I went to Pabbay and Mingulay and didn’t climb my hardest grades but really pushed myself. Before I left I really wanted to on-sight the Bonxie and some other E6’s but the truth is that while I’ve done about a dozen or so E5’s I’m not really an E5 climber. Put me on choss, a multi-pitch, or something with complicated ropework and route finding and my grade plummets. Instead the 10 days I spent in the Barra Isles ended up being about intimidating myself everyday on big E3’s and 4’s and I felt a noticeable improvement on big stuff by the end of the trip. I will onsight E6, perhaps even this summer but equally I really want to push it on the stuff that doesn’t suit me; Cougar, Voyage of the Beagle, Titan’s Wall, The Prozac Link, Big John...
It’s funny that on-sighting E6 should be such a big deal for me; I have friends who onsight E5 who only onsight about f6c, on a recent trip to Spain I onsighted 7c, maybe even 7c+ so am I just being a pussy? Well undoubtedly I am a pussy but I think it’s more than that. When you onsight your first 6c it tends to be around about vertical and technical, much like the majority of E4’s and 5’s. The 7c’s in Spain were all massively steep bucket hauls, really fun but with little bearing on your average trad pitch. Secondly the climber who exclusively trad climbs would obviously up his sport grade if he focussed on that for a bit just like how I’d improve my trad grade if I focussed on that, so the 6c-7c climber comparison that I regularly hear regurgitated is kind of a skewed one but watch this space, scaring yourself is good for the soul.

19 comments:

貢慧 said...

喜歡你的部落格,留言請您繼續加油.................................................................

育財 said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。......................................................................

萱祥 said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債............................................................

王名仁 said...

人生是故事的創造與遺忘。............................................................

王名仁 said...

很棒的分享~留言支持!.......................................................

Robert said...

Errr. Don't understand the chinese comments, but I think I can guess which philosophers you've been reading recently :-)

芸茂芸茂 said...

世間唯一永恆的,就是改變..................................................

JasonBirk佳琪 said...

快樂不需要理由-及時行樂..................................................................

Niall said...

Sam,
Have to agree with all you said there, especially the last bit about (non)transference of ability across different kinds of climbing and grades thereof.
For onsighting E6es, the ability to onsight standard British 7b sport routes would be of higher priority than of euro-stamina 7c. British 7bs tend to be vertical, cruxy and technical. When i OSed my first E6 i had only Osed one 7b+ at the time and could only OS 1/2 of all 7bs that i went on.

I like what you say about tribalism within climbing. Is it "better" to be an all rounder with different aspects of climbing at a lower level than your absolute best potential or to specialize at one section and thus reach your potential?
For me, i am enjoying trying to concentrate on different aspects at different times of the year and even concentrating on aspect from year to year. Trying to be bit of an all-rounder on rock i guess. FWIW, i used to be one those trad extremist that looked down on boulderers and sport-climbers. Not any more of course, each aspect has some unique pleasure of it's own that the others cannot offer. Not winter climbing though, thats just fucking mental and miserable....

淑芳淑芳 said...

下次再來希望可以看到新的作品喔。............................................................

國昆 said...

天助自助者~~大家一起加油!為了更好的將來!............................................................

建佑建佑 said...

耐斯的部落格值得推蔫!............................................................

佩璇佩璇 said...

先為別人的快樂著想,是超人;先為自己的快樂著想,是凡人;使別人不快樂,自己也不快樂的,是笨人。..................................................

承蘋承蘋 said...

你不能改變容貌~~但你可以展現笑容............................................................

dawsonfelicia張君dawsonfelicia均 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

RicoLisi0802志竹 said...

愛情不是慈善事業,不能隨便施捨。.................................................................

淑吳玲 said...

當我微笑時,世界和我一起微笑;當我快樂時,世界和我一起活躍。..................................................

秀李李迪秀李李迪 said...

絕不要羞於承認自己不知道的事。..................................................

亦奈美妮 said...

凡事三思而行,跑得太快是會滑倒的。.......................................................