It’s about climbing. But it’s also totally not just about climbing. Sometimes I find an article like this one and it just eats my life for an hour. I read it as a climber. I read it as someone who actually knows alpine climbers—not just one, but several. I read it as someone who is deeply interested in Stoicism and negative visualization [a part of Stoicism]. I spun off and found an entire new podcast that I think I want to listen to all of the episodes. *sigh* Such a delight to be swamped with such riches!
As climbers, we are inventors of our own goals, and must decide on our own how to achieve them. There is nobody else there. Nobody to control. We do extreme, dangerous things, and nobody else can say what is right or wrong. There is no moral loathing. We have only our instincts about human behavior, and in the end we are our own judges.
Without failures I would not be here. I learned most of what I know today through them. Maybe it was my partner, or the equipment was not proper, or the training—especially the mental training, which is the most important thing—were not good enough. With success, you don’t always know why you succeed, but when you fail, it’s clear what you did wrong. Then you can make changes and learn.
Then I noticed a huge mound of stones stacked on the flat-topped summit, a clearly man-made production, tight as an Inca battlement and resembling a stone obelisk or maybe an altar. How someone scaled that red junker to stack those stones in that manner rather confounded me.
This is an amazing story told about rock climbing— actually it’s about rock not being climbable, except for the fact that people, who were not modern rock climbers clearly did climb these things. A simply amazing story.
Also, and not at all related, some web sites have these visual “hide” affects that tease you with some initial content. Some web sites do that the lazy way, by sending all the content along but then telling your web browser to hide it visually from you. Also, some web browsers have a “readability version” feature that will turn a hot-mess of a web page into easy-to-read text. If you use that feature on one of those sites, you can read all the text. Furthermore, some web sites actually include the full text of things in their RSS feeds even though they hide it if you go to the web page directly. Curiously, all of these things are completely not at all no way nuh-uh related to this article that I’m sharing today.
Mountains are entities; you get to climb them, but you can’t conquer them. Put your arrogance aside. You can never beat a mountain into submission. If I summit it’s because I was in the right place at the right time.
Risk is everywhere. If you’re not a climber, I’d venture to guess that you regularly ride in automobiles, which is the most dangerous thing you regularly do. It’s not particularly risky—the chances of catastrophe are low. And it’s a risk I’m comfortable with. Comfortable in both senses: I’ve rationally assessed the risk and do what I can to reduce that risk, and I’ve been exposed to the risk so often that it no longer evinces a visceral reaction.
Certainly, in climbing the objective hazards loom larger; when you’re looking down on large birds cruising the ridge-lift, your physical perspective shifts your mental perspective on life. But there are objective hazards everywhere. For me, I like to do everything reasonable to reduce all of the risks, but knowing that the risks exist— spending some time each day sitting with those risks, knowing I cannot fully eliminate all of them— that’s living.
Three years ago I posted, Programming is terrible. These days? …yeah, exactly the same, but now I find I’m staring suspiciously at, basically, everything thinking: I’m about to do something which, as soon as I completely forget the details, (in the too-near future,) I’m going to be left with something that irritates me. A mess of my own making, as it were.
I’ve been on a bender for decades—which clearly means I’ve not been succeeding, right? I’ve been on a bender to simplify things as much as I can. A lot of progress can be made in that direction simply by removing goals: If I can delete the goal of, “make this thing be successful,” then that might make it possible to simply enjoy the thing. Normal people would just call that “a hobby” and wouldn’t need a paragraph to unpack the idea.
Rock climbing falls into this “hobby” category. I’m a poor, (as in skill,) climber, but since I don’t have any goals related to climbing, it’s just, “any day at the crag.” (And the, “…is better than any other day,” is left unsaid.) That’s literally my mantra. (Somebody should find me a sticker that says that for the top of my climbing helmet.) Some days I climb a bunch of stuff. Some days I fall off a bunch of stuff. Some days it’s glorious weather. Some days it’s tics, snakes and poison ivy. I’ve climbed a bunch of stuff already. There’s a bunch more stuff to climb.
One of my hobbies is rock climbing. (Outdoors, “trad”[itional]—where you climb in pairs with the lead climber “putting up” safety gear, and the second climber “cleaning” up said gear as they climb.) Climbing outdoors is generally, hot, sweaty, dirty, and rocks are hard—bumps, bruises, scrapes, are par for the course. Then there’s the “walk” (anything not climbing rocks is “walking”) to/from the climb which can sometimes be an hour+ of bush-wacking terrain. Sometimes you get caught in the rain. Bug bites are a foregone conclusion. O’dark-thirty early starts, long drives [unless you’re lucky to live/camp very near the “crag”]. There are things I like about rock climbing—but the pro’s/con’s isn’t want I want to write about today.
Rock climbing is best done in tune with the seasons and with the weather. So there’s a zen quality to having all your gear ready to go, keeping yourself [as best I can] in reasonable shape, talking with climbing friends about when we’re next going… and then simply waiting.
And then, “hey! tom is last good weather day this week,” shows up via message. Yes please!
Various photos of a few of the routes we worked on day three, in the Upper Gorge. This area is “trad[itional]” climbing. In many areas, hangers are bolted into the rock for clipping in safety gear. In this area, you have to bring your own hardware which you temporarily insert into the nooks and crannies of the rock.
Once we had our top rope up, we spent the rest of our daylight here. Staright up, dihedral with a 5.8 finger jam crack. Paste your feet on the right and bury your hands… four attempts, but I couldn’t quite pull this one off.
This wall was just a few degrees from vertical. Standing on tiny features like edge of a nickel. The upper lip is about 200 feet, and roofed out at least forty feet. Route started with this sheer, wet, mossy wall with a fist-jam crack (insert entire hand, make fist so it can’t come out and the walk up the wall :) Spent all day climbing all over this wall, and then one other route.
If you ask me, this was a pretty sweet place to start climbing! Super easy warm up… before we moved onto some much harder stuff. I can just barely climb the “easy” climbs here. Lots of insane over-hanging stuff that is way beyond me.
I did about 6 climbs in the afternoon before I was totally “burnt”. A couple of them were a grade or more above my best climbs the last time Mike and I were on the rocks. Really happy about that; Means my general “get in shape” continues to yield broad (health, life, parkour, climbing) benefits without my having to hyper-focus on specific sports.