December 2021 – February 2022

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SA Mountain Editorial – Issue 79
Can you live with the idea of not doing that route?

I recently watched the Brit Rock Film Tour. Four excellent and very entertaining movies, but for me two of the films stood head and shoulders above the rest – Lexicon and Fall Theory. Not because of the cinematography, or the directorship, etc. (which were outstanding, by the way), but because of what these two movies symbolise – commitment, dedication and a deep passion that practically goes beyond life itself. It is totally mind blowing to see and ultimately realise the sacrifices and often life-changing lengths some climbers will endure, to get that send! Not only in terms of training and climbing, but that which affects their personal life at home and in the work place. It doesn’t border on obsession. Nay, it is the very epitome of obsession!

As climbers, we all show a certain amount of psych, commitment and dedication to the sport we so dearly love, but as we know that comes in many shades of enjoyment and terror. One climber’s total commitment can be another’s stroll in the park, and psych can be defined in many ways.

For instance, pulling a crux move, with a (solid) bolt below your feet, can be a gripping experience for some. Totally irrational some may think. And then you get a heinously thin and smeary sequence, on empty forearms, five or more metres above marginal gear placements, or a taped sky hook. How different are those two mind spaces? And who is more scared? I suppose it all comes down to dedication and what you are prepared to sacrifice and how bad you want that route.

Truth be told, it is not possible to quantify the many stages of ‘fear’ within different climber’s brains, as it really comes down to each individual’s level of determination and commitment and of course physics. What is clear though, is that we all get something special and irreplaceable from climbing, something that makes us go back to the battle face time and time again, to cross swords with the stone. And as we all know, were it not for the fear factor (no matter the level), the unknown and the ultimate elation of success, climbing would not be what it is. It is these emotions that lures us, which keeps us opening that door that leads us into Wonderland, to the unknown, to grapple with our own fears and minds.

All this for a sequence of moves on a rock face . . . But we all know it runs far deeper than that.

“Ultimately it’s like an emotional response, isn’t it. Can you live with the idea of not doing that route? And if you can’t, then you need to do it!”
Franco Cookson in Fall Theory

Have a great and wonderful festive season.

Be safe in the hills


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