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Tick Lists – Part and parcel of the climbing game
How many of us can honestly say we have never had a ‘Tick List’?
Back in the day, in the mid ’70s, when the climbing bug bit me, after only climbing for a few months, I already started with tick lists. I used to spend a lot of time down at the Wynberg Municipal library, paging through climbing books – books on climbing in the UK and Europe and also some of the old MCSA Journals. Between those wonderfully smelling pages, were a seemingly endless number of climbs and mountain routes, that to me, as a young teenager, were enthralling and hugely inspirational.
In my young imaginative mind, I envisaged climbing so many of these routes, so I started to compile lists of routes which, over time, I would beaver through – or at least that was the plan. Routes in Scotland, the Peak, Wales, the Alps and of course many on Table Mountain. That was my first tick list. Completely unrealistic of course, but that didn’t matter. The excitement that I felt, when I read through it, was powerful and created a marvelous world within my mind. Of course this tick list changed on numerous occasions. I would add routes and sometimes even remove routes. I even created a tick list of rock climbs that I wanted to down climb. This was inspired by the legendary George Londt, one of the hard guys from the 1920s. He made a point of down climbing many routes. After a short while though, I dismissed this as a crazy idea, and never followed through with that.
And then, how incredible is that feeling when you actually go out and climb one of the routes on your tick list? Coming home, whipping out your file and ticking off the route as ‘done’. Such a feeling of accomplishment.
As we get a little older, we realise that life is just not long enough to climb every single classic route in the world. It is a sad realisation really, sort of akin to the day you discover that Father Christmas is a fairy tale. You accept it, but you still strive to get out there and tick off as many routes as you can, just like we still celebrate Christmas every year and still play the Father Christmas game with our kids.
Tick lists take on many different forms of course. It can be your own personal list of routes, a list compiled for a specific holiday or a list of routes designed as a training regime, or even a fun way to make climbing more exciting, like Alta Venter did recently: climbing 20 x grade 20s, and ultimately doing 23 x grade 23s – what a great way to increase your psych and an awesome goal to work towards.
Over the last 50 years or more, there have been many excellent books published on ‘Classic Climbs’ around the world. Amongst the most famous of these are: The Mont Blanc Massif – the 100 Finest Routes by Gaston Rébuffat, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America by Steve Roper and Allen Steck and the inimitable trio – Classic Rock, Hard Rock and Extreme Rock compiled by Ken Wilson. These books have achieved iconic status and have been climbing bibles for many a climber.
All these books are incredible tick lists in their own right, and I am sure many climbers out there are working their way through them. Just recently, British climber, James McHaffie, became the first (and only) climber to tick off the whole of Extreme Rock – quite a monumental achievement. Last week, I was guiding a young Scottish couple up some Western Cape Classics, and they confessed that they were on a quest to tick off the whole of Classic Rock – some 80 or so routes scattered along the length of the British Isles. What a tremendous and exciting objective. Imagine all those days, weeks and months planning, traveling and climbing. Doesn’t come much better than that.
I’ve been climbing for many decades now, and sure, my climbing goals have changed over the years, but I still have tick lists. Oh yes, absolutely! Some of them I’ll climb and some I won’t, and some routes on the list are just outrageous. And I keep adding routes, many of which are probably only a dream. But it is the child within that keeps my imagination alive and still makes me page through timeless classics and add to my ever-growing tick list. It certainly keeps climbing alive and exciting for me.
Be safe in the hills
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