Surface Tension (E5,6b)

With my winter season being called to an early and unexpected end due to an injured ankle I’ve spent the last few weeks of ‘good’ weather getting out to local crags and pulling on some dry rock,getting ready for the upcoming trad season. Last year I’d been convinced to give ‘Surface Tension’ at Auchinstarry Quarry a go on a top-rope to try out the moves. The routes an awesome line that takes the blank wall above the water at the back of the quarry. On my first attempt I quickly realised the route was extremely sequence-y and decided to leave it for another day when I could try all the moves over on a shunt on my own.

My recent attempts have been solo trips to the crag running the tricky sequence and balance-y moves of the route over and over until eventually on my last trip I’d managed it clean (no falling from bottom to top) and started to feel confident with my chances on the lead.

The tricky part about the test pieces at Auchinstarry is not just that they are technically difficult but also that they tend to present a serious aspect of danger due to the lack of protection, most featuring marginal, next to nothing placements or none at all. Like ‘Nijinski’ (E5, 6a) That I’d climbed previously last year, ‘Surface Tension’ has serious moves that are well above the doubtful gear, that most probably come under the category of ‘bodyweight placements’, However it comes with the added bonus of falling into water rather than decking out onto hard ground…

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My serious, deep seas diving goggles… (many thanks to Zuzu for the last-minute ‘save’)

Today The weather was cracking and I’d decided to take my wetsuit down to have a go at clearing away some of the debris and objects that have been thrown over the cliff edge and sit under the surface of the water, waiting to impale a falling climber that has been ejected from one of the routes above. With the water being freezing and only have a comically small pair of pink goggles that were borrowed from a friend last-minute, we rushed through the job clearing out deck chairs, “danger, rock fall” signs, wheelbarrows and logs.There was no excuses now, the lead was inevitable.

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pulling hard on small crimps

I could write a long paragraph here to take you through terrifying lead but I fear I’d do it no justice. Here’s a short video from Finalcrux Films that shows the day in full.

Many thanks to both Euan and David for their support and for convincing me to go for it!

Why on earth do we do this!?

Hello again People!

So firstly, I’d like to say sorry for not keeping my page up to date, I’m entirely useless and extremely forgetful!

As I haven’t written anything recently I thought I’d give you some food for thought. As the winter season has started to properly kick in I thought I would start with this.

Winter climbers, why is it that we all share the common attribute of being forgetful? Now this may sound stupid but I say this because what other excuse can we possible have for continuing to return to dark and frozen lay-by’s, at unearthly hours of the morning, just to kit up for another torturous walk-in, that only a few days before, we swore we would never put our bodies through again!? Now either this is the proof that we are all entirely forgetful, or we are all just bloody mad! either way, this ability for us to just forgive and forget everything we put ourselves through at that very second we reach the summit of that chosen route, has always astonished me and has got me thinking about the weird ways in which our sport affects all of us climbers.

When you start to look into the odd relationship us climbers have with our sport its funny what you see. From winter climbers being able to forget the perils they go through to get to climbs, to the trad climber that pleads with fear for respite. It seems like it’s possible that we actually create some sort of ‘bond’ with our routes. One minute its the climb that you hate as you struggle up the moves. The next minute you are blessing the same route, that very same climb, all just for revealing that placement for that ‘bomber’ piece. We begin to create ‘attitudes’ towards climbs and these change depending on how the route affects us.

Our sport can cause us to be happy, scared, relaxed, tired, nervous and in some cases even obsessed. Climbers travel thousand of miles, put their body through hell and back, push themselves close to a mental breakdown and all whilst putting themselves in life risking situations all for the chance to complete a certain climb. Now when you take a step back and break it down as simply as it can be put, the definition of a ‘climb’ is just a specific path up some specific rock. It seems crazy how something as simple as that can take a hold of us so easily and have such a power over us.

Ultimately this all ties in (see what I did there!) and leads (there too!) to the question that I don’t think any one of us will ever be able to give the specific answer to.

“Why do we climb?”.

Now some people dislike that we have no pinpointed explanation for this, some people I know just don’t care. On the other hand, I personally  love that we can’t explain our obsession, it leaves a sense of the unknown within us. Why do we risk everything for that chance of success? Are we climbing to see what we can achieve? Or is it as basic as we climb because we can? You might be the indoor enthusiast who questions why you’ve been training on the fingerboard for the last 3 weeks just to gain that extra strength you need for that route you just can’t quite do at the centre. The bouldering fanatic who wonders why you stayed and shredded the remaining skin from your tips when you should have left an hour ago with everyone else, just for the chance to get the top out of that long-term project. The Trad climber who questions why you risks it all as the crux approaches, 40 meters up, one RP placed forever ago, and sever ground fall potential, all for the success of your hardest tick to date. Finally The mountaineer. Who questions why you put yourself in one of the most hostile environments on the planet, risk horrific conditions, consistent pain, cold and danger, all to stand upon that faraway summit.

No matter what type of climber you are, or the answer to why you climb, it’s a question that will continue to arise in every climbers head at some point, and one that can drive you mad looking for answers to.  If you’ve managed to work it out, you’re a smarter man (or woman) than me, and if this is the case, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re like me and stand clueless then try not to fret about why we do it, just be happy to be part of a sport that pushes us in so many more ways than just physically and forces us to break the boundaries of our limits, even if it is in the name of madness!

*I take no responsibility for any mental breakdown cause from over thinking this question,