El Delphin is an orange, semi-circular limestone arch in Rodella Gorge. Squirming through the jagged gap at the apex of the arch – head-jam, body-jam, knees pressed against rock – body-jam… squirm-thrutch-wriggle … thighs pumped, back scratched. Inching, inching, inching … and then at last, the rock releases – I’m born into space and air and layback-from-buckets, and eventually I reach the top of the climb. The climb was graded 7a, certainly not a test piece, but for me, this one amongst many, will be more memorable.
Weeks into my first pure rock trip in years, I have come to the conclusion I’m not of the correct mental make-up to be a good sport climber. But am I making this comment purely on the grade of climb I succeed – and by succeed I mean get to the top of without falling? In sport climbing I think, success is not based purely, if at all, on the enjoyment received from climbing great moves – it is based on reaching the chains without falling? Sport climbing success for many is not based on being in a beautiful area, enjoying the company, the wildlife; it is based on clipping the chains without falling from a climb at the top of your grade? Sport climbing is trying to push grades and reach a new number isnt it, or is this me projecting my thoughts wrongly?
I’ve always struggled with this. Don’t get me wrong, there is something very satisfying about pushing yourself and reaching a new grade but I think sport climbing focuses and draws people into this thinking too much. All the time people say, “I want to climb 8a, 8b, 8c… etc, very rarely is it I want to climb this route because it is a great line.
I much prefer to move over rock at a standard I can hopefully reach the top, at the top of my ability first or second go. Is there anything wrong with climbing satisfying moves at a lower grade in great surroundings and having fun and getting fit and learning to read and experience the rock without working a climb into submission?
I had hoped to climb to a grade of 8a on this trip, but in the last few weeks the usual attempting to on-sight climbs near the top of my on-sighting ability, (7b+ at the moment), is much more enjoyable and has taken over. It is also the fact that I want to climb routes that are visually pleasing and appeal, not just any route with a certain grade attached. I receive so much more from battling into the unknown, attempting to work out moves and sequences – attempting to battle the voices in my mind that desperately want to make my mouth shout take. The whole battle of the mind that keeps me hanging on, shaking-out, hanging-on, placing a quick-draw, shaking-out, hanging-on, altering my grip a fraction to conserve some energy, clipping the rope, shaking-out, shaking-out and then attempting to move higher – this is what I enjoy and receive pleasure. There are so many beautiful, testing lines to climb in my grade range – this to me means much more than repeatedly returning to the same place and the same piece of rock over and over to reach a new grade.
I don’t decry anyone who wants to work one climb to reach a certain grade, I’m just saying, for me; I have re-affirmed this is not what climbing rock is about. I suppose if I left the winter and the mountains alone for a while, even with my fast twitch mentality, I would naturally progress to the point that climbing to a new number would not involve much time but I know this will not happen as the world of climbing means gaining many more experiences from all aspects of what it has to offer – its rock, places, people and mountains and climbing to a new number while clipping bolts is not really that important to me.