Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Days are short, nights are long and dark. Mists mask the moors. A chill stalks the land as the long winter months spread out before us. Hope fades as successive weekends are devoured by dampness. Fear eats away at the soul: fear of inaction, fear of projects unfinished and slopers untamed.  We seek sanctuary indoors under the halogen lights.  We look for salvation under the board and grasp campus rungs in an attempt to ward off inaction, failure and weakness.  Monstrous storms stalk the land as we scurry to the soft landings, friendly holds and comforting coffee of the wall; unaware of the dangers that lie within and the peril we place ourselves in!

At the outset a visit to the wall is a simple, innocent affair; one that involves cleansing exercise and structure, mediated by a steadily controlled march towards the high-minded principals of betterment. Those who stand on the mats working problems laugh, share beta and work together with little malice towards a common goal. This palace of wood and plastic becomes a place to escape the pressures of life, shed the stresses of work and escape the greed that surrounds us all. However they are there; In the shadows, watching, waiting, unaware of what their actions may unleash upon the world.

My visits to the wall can be solitary. I spend much of my time on my own, locked into the discipline of routine, captivated by repetition and the strength this should bring. I disappear into a world governed by a steep angle punctuated by three holds.  Lock, glide, swing; this is the rhythm of my sessions. I should be swinging towards strength, little do I know how weak I am, how vulnerable I have become alone under the board, separated from the safety of the herd. They are there at the edge of sight, circling, ready to make a move. Their increasing influence allows danger to chill the air. It is easy to forget yourself, surrounded by fingerboards and campus rungs.

You are in their world, you have strayed onto unfamiliar territory, for this is the domain of the beast.

The monsters who stalk the wall are ordinary people like you and me, mild mannered and personable, unaware of the dark powers they posses. The Sheriff of the Hanger is a perfect example. I've known this particular beast since his late teens, and as far as I can ascertain no evidence has come to light to prove that he is anything but a thoroughly decent example of the human species. However when the evenings draw in, the air becomes chill and mists obscure reality hiding the sins of the city, The Sheriff and his accomplices- The Dark Knight and The D Master can, in one simple action, steal souls, devour ambition, institute apathy and leave the soft tissues of all who see them torn and ripped beyond repair.

I once witnessed The Sheriff's dark energies with my own eyes, and am lucky to be here telling this tale! I was scarred by these events; sleep evades me now and when I do slumber my dreams are dark, haunted by beings that do not conform to the natural laws that govern our universe. I was stood under the campus board at The Hanger, intoxicated by caffeine and sugar, watching specks of chalk dance in the halogen beams that illuminate the movement and determination which characterise this corner of the wall. Others were trying to engage me however their words were broken by my metronomic movements on the campus rungs. At this point The Sheriff materialised on the mat - he jumped up and caught a small campus rung with one hand, without matching he slowly pulled through and caught a rung with his other hand somewhere in the far distant future! This awesome display of one-arm, static power sucked all of the oxygen from the lungs of those who observed it! We were struck dumb; The Sheriff strode away as if nothing special had happened! We the witnesses were left in a reality where only two paths were now possible: 1. Give up trying; descend into a pit of apathy knowing that such strength will always be beyond our capabilities or 2. Be inspired to repeat what was performed on the rungs in front of us, however this leads inevitably to torn tendons, misery and disappointment broken by only the occasional, brief sniff of small victory. Both of these paths are dark, both eventually lead to desolation. The Sheriff would never understand the dark seeds his actions planted in our desperate souls;  this is the nature of the beast's power, it is unconsciously possessed and indiscriminantly expressed in ways that will encourage and stymie in equal measure. 

Only one of the three Beasts shown here is fictional.
All walls are inhabited by their own winter beasts, there shifting in the shadows, ready to perform amazing feats that you can only dream of.  The beasts are haunted by their own demons, their climbing lives are harried by greater beasts that they can only dream of matching.  The Knight, Sheriff and The Master can often be heard whispering in distant corners of The Hanger about strange, almost voodoo-like acts performed by titans, relayed to them on dancing, digital screens.  The same excitement, fear and dread exists in the beasts' eyes when they talk of the monsters that stalk the shadows of their world.  We are all caught in a cycle of expectation, disappointment, ambition, apathy, fear, strength, injury and failure. As the winds howl outside and we find ourselves in an inescapable, dark labyrinth of training, our beasts will hunt, haunt and sometimes engulf us.  However there is hope, a glimmer on the horizon, something that may save us from the inevitable march towards tendonitis and the toll it will take. Spring will come,  light and warmth will break across the land melting the ice and snow, animating the lands around us, leading all out again to real rock, to the sancuary of silica holds, beyond the dark power of the beast and the dualistic world of destruction  and dismay that it creates. 

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