This article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue of the BMC’s Summit Magazine.
We look forward to the sunsets, the early morning starts, the weather forecasts. We press our noses against the cold glass and peer into the rain. With bloody fingers, scarred hands and sore toes we walk the line between obsession and overdose. We take a gamble, risk it all and enjoy the fight.
Searching for perfection. We share a dirty secret; we know about the experiences out there. Out there, beyond the city lights, the constant noise and the end of the road. Out there, beneath the sun and the stars. We’ll make sacrifices in life, wake up in the dirt and put on the coffee.
Climbing, walking, mountaineering - we’re all part of the same family. We get our kicks from reaching the summits, finding the limits, pushing too far. We enjoy the out-of-doors lifestyle as our form of motivation, meditation, escape, release.
Our stories of success…
…When he shook out below the crux for ages, climbing up and down, up and down, getting even more tired. We knew he was going to fall: he was exhausted. There was no way he should’ve made it but somehow he slapped, screamed, scrabbled, over the top. Where did that strength come from? How we laughed and celebrated that night.
And failures, too...
...Who can forget the routes we’ve failed on? Lowering off, being rescued, falling… being hit in the face when my gear ripped as I flew. Scars remind me of the falls, remind me to try harder next time. But at least we got on them; routes that have been ‘saved for another day’ circle in my head. Demons, quietly brewing, waiting for their moment.
Our gestures at the bottom of the cliffs. Guidebooks held open like sacred texts, fingers trace the words before we glance up at the rock, pointing and waving. ‘That roof is there, which means this groove is here. Simple.’ I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone off route.
We are possessed by the weather and conditions. Is it greasy? Is it dry? A change of forecast; clouds in the sky, spots of rain, rumbles of thunder. A change of heart. We can’t climb unless it’s cool, we can’t rest unless it’s raining. We like to think the conditions make all the difference.
A front passes by, humidity rises, temperature falls. Not today; it’ll miss us, I’m sure. Heads tilt to the sky, narrow eyes scan clouds, open hands catch raindrops. But the sun always shines brightest after a shower. Don’t worry though, it never rains in Pembroke... except when it does.
As the light fades and the sky turns pink and orange, we sit in the grass and soak in the view. We talk about the routes, the moves and the holds. Chalky hands above our heads, we open and close sliding windows, replaying our adventures. We share our stories. Sometimes, all it takes is a knowing look and a laugh. ‘Yeah, I’ve taken the ride!’ The eyes tell stories, and of stories to come. We can’t wait for the next one. For tomorrow.
Thanks also to Jöttnar, who originally published a version of this piece on their website and on UKClimbing.com.