Saturday, 2 November 2013

All for the Love of Wood and Plastic.

I have a confession to make. There is something dark lurking in the recesses of my mind. I don’t want to divulge any details. I don’t want to admit that I am capable of such sordid thoughts.

The October Monsson engulfs the Neath Valley
The rain is back;, temperatures are high and the Indian summer some had whispered about seems to have morphed into a sub-continental monsoon; puddles have depth. The rhythm of the rain on the rooves seems to sing songs of yet another season lost. There are problems in the Peak and the Pass that are just waiting to be finished. Final holds fumbled in the summer months have been waiting for the cool of autumn and the attention they so richly deserve. I should be out there; an outdoor weekend- warrior battling grit, dolerite and limestone; fighting the good fight, seeking adventure in wild places. However I'm not, I'm inside.

It's not that it’s evil (the thing plaguing my thoughts), I'm just not sure that it’s right. I really don’t want you to judge me, but I've got to tell someone; I need to share this burden.

I hate loose ends; unfinished outdoor problems nag away, eating my psyche, until they become members of the ever-increasing mental list of 'must go back to visit' problems. This list hangs around in the background haunting you. Should you train for them in case the weather takes a turn for the better, or would your time indoors be better spent toiling towards greater long term goals: trips abroad or harder problems? Your focus can become blurred, however any climbing is better than no climbing at all.

My eyes have started to wander. There’s something shapely, curvaceous and engaging invading my consciousness, turning my head (and not in a good way).

Indoor problems don’t have the same hold over me as their outdoor equivalents. I seem to be able to frame them as transient training apparatus. Failure does not consign these problems to a future must-do list that revolves on continuous play in my head; I simply don’t have any emotional attachment to those coloured plastic lines that decorate plywood at the wall. I know plenty of other climbers who can articulate with the indoor climbing experience fully. Each new set of problems precipitates a new campaign; problems are individually wrestled and vanquished. This leads to conversations of beta, moves, style and quality. I wish I could change my frames of reference and see indoor problems as ends in themselves. It would lead to less disappointment with the British weather; I would get stronger as well - I just don’t seem to be able to do it.

She's there every time I go to the wall. She does nothing special to grab my attention, but I simply can’t take my eyes off her. How do I broach this incendiary topic with my wife?

The indoor climbing wall for me is a social space. Somewhere I catch up with friends, drink coffee and seek asylum from my work space. It is the place where I generally unwind; rid myself of the daily baggage placed into my irresponsible hands by modern social and economic interactions. It’s also a training space for me where I work on the deficiencies in my climbing repertoire. Repetition, isolation of move, intensity and volume marshal my sessions at the wall, all to one end - to lessen the burden of failure in my mind. I train for outdoor excellence that I rarely attain.

I'm just going to admit it; life in a world of denial is no life at all. I have feelings, an emotional attachment to the cellar board at the Hangar. I know it’s wrong, but is it really?

Mills working those holds baby!
Ok, it’s out there. I should focus on problems made of minerals, sculpted by the elements that exist in a natural landscape, but I just can’t help it, the draw of the board is so strong. I can ignore those circuit problems, they do nothing for me, but the board.....? I'm no fool; I know this is an uneven relationship, unrequited if you will. The board has more time for the stronger climber; her attentions are lavished on Dan, Psyche or Crouch and their abilities to use holds that most of us can only dream of locking down. However I can kid myself, believe that one day I might reign supreme in the world of the board and monopolise the attention of this inanimate object. Yes its wrong, yes I should be obsessing around real boulder problems, of course I should be looking at the skies for a break in the rain; but I just can’t help it, that 50 degree angle is just too good.

I need help.

The first step to dealing with a problem like this is to acknowledge you have a problem. I told my wife - I admitted that I had strayed and looked at another! I told her how sorry I was. I was looking for forgiveness, redemption. She looked deep into my soul and said without fuss or irony “Hmm, that’s nice dear."

Oooh just look at the steepness
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, then please contact your local wall where fellow board-lovers may help you. Intensively attempting problems created by others, sitting on mats in the shadow cast by the board and endlessly waxing lyrical about the best hold on impressively steep angles will eventually allow you to kick this terrible affliction.


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