Wednesday, 13 February 2008
It is just a grade. It’s not a particularly good grade. It wasn’t even a nice line. But it meant the world to me. It was the day I found out what working at your limit meant and climbing for me was never the same.
On my 30th birthday, I started working a V5 that I spied on a prior trip to North Wales. The line wasn’t great, but it was my type of problem, small but positive holds on an overhang. Wow, this might just be possible, I thought.
When I actually tried the problem I started to have doubts. Was I strong enough? The holds were minuscule and caused every muscle in my body to hurt. I had an imprint of one of the crimps I was trying to hold branded into my finger-tip, beneath this blood was beginning to well up. I began to think to myself, do I actually have any business trying this problem? Am I hurting myself too much? I didn’t know the answer to those questions, but still I persisted. Something was driving me. I had to have an exact sequence. One foot in slightly in the wrong place would result in too much energy wasted and ultimately cause me to fall off. I was so tired, but yet I kept on trying with only a few minutes rest in between attempts. It was an all out struggle for me. I never had to battle with something like that before.
I did eventually get the problem and it was amazing, but as with most good things, it wasn’t without its negatives. At that very moment, climbing ceased to be solely about having fun. When I realised that I could accomplish things by pushing the boundaries of what is possible for me – that old demon of wanting more appeared again.
However, the most amazing thing happened when I came back to the same problem a few months later. I got it on the first go. I didn’t remember the correct sequence. My feet were all over the place. I wasn’t feeling particularly good, but I still sent it and the difference was amazing. My limit was no longer my limit. I got stronger.
My first V5 was a major breakthrough for me. However it left me with a double-edged legacy. One part of this was the hollow question of how far I could actually take things. I've been looking for the answer ever since.