A week a go I went climbing at a crag called Afrique in Gietroz, Switzerland. It was amazing! I did 4 routes, a 6a, a 6b+, a 6c+ and a 7a. Each route felt like actual magic. Like I was Harry Potter. Every time I crossed through and placed my toe on a little foot hold I felt a little bit of joy. I was constantly surprised that my arms, those same arms that haven’t pulled in 5 months, one arm that hasn’t even been able to put a jar on the top shelf, those arms were keeping me attached to the rock! My fingers still remembered how to grip the hard grey stuff and my body positioning felt like I hadn’t had anytime off at all. The only small difference (which is no difference at all when you think about it) was that I was climbing 7a and it felt like 7c+. When I looked down at my feet I tried to hide my manic smile from my friend belaying (he’s a cool skier type and I didn’t want him to think me too mental).
I’m not sure if it was my mindset or the route, or a combination of the two, but it felt like a perfect route. Perfect rock, perfect movement, sustained, thought provoking.
Before I set off I had a little talk with myself on the ground. Although I’ve climbed 8c and usually don’t even bother to warm up on 7a, I knew that if I climbed this 7a, it would be the hardest I’d climbed in 5 months and a mini-milestone for me. I would be a real climber again. And I craved that feeling of success, I wanted it. But I knew that with my shoulder in its fragile state, it’s a risk to take my ego up the route with me. If my shoulder hurts or feels vulnerable I need to let go of the rock, not hold on. This is hard when your default mindset is to hold on. Whenever climbing starts to get difficult I go into ‘try hard mode’ and I don’t let go until my fingers uncurl. My ego won’t feel the pain or think about the risk of re-tearing my shoulder, all my ego wants is to get up that 7a and have that little piece of success. So I had a little chat to myself and decided to leave my ego on the ground. I climbed the route cautiously but well. I got to the top with no hiccups and a huge grin on my face.
This operation has taught me that there is more to life than just going climbing, and I can find happiness without it. Now that I’ve started climbing again I’ve also been reminded how shockingly happy I feel when I’m climbing. It’s quite terrifying how good I felt after that one 7a. But I suppose that’s what it is to be passionate about something.
Some photos from the last few months:
The 7a that dreams are made from
Filming in a portaledge two feet off the ground in Norway
Terrified after another topo-less soling jaunt in Chamonix
Terrified watching Jonny wield a drill on a new-routng foray
Full team to help me off the mountain - Nico plus his dog and true professional: Tom