Thinking The Think
For pretty much as long as I can remember I have defined myself as a climber. To be honest I don’t really climb that much these days. Not like I did 20 years ago anyway. However when I do climb I seem to climb about as well or as hard as I did back then. I’ve just come back from a manic 5 days in Mallorca where a bunch of us spent time deep water soloing (I managed to trick my way up a handful of steep 7z sport routes which were really well out of my reach, but had plenty of cunning rests and big holds on), road biking (we beasted ourselves up a 1,000m pass in the midday sun despite not having been on a bike for the best part of 6 months), and a couple of us took our first steps at canyoning (we descended what is described as one of Europe’s best canyons, 3 hours in total darkness and swimming in super-cold pools, some committing abseils, some sketchy shenanigans climbing knotted ropes with dubious anchors and dodgy landings, and a lot of heavy bush-whacking up and down steep, sharp limestone hillsides covered in what we called razor-grass).
That may all sound a bit melodramatic, but that’s kind of my point. We did a lot of driving, plenty of drinking, Ultimate Frisbee on the beach, some long open-water swims and a fair bit of lugging rucksacks full of kit around. Our plane on the way home was delayed until 4am which resulted in us losing a night’s sleep on top of being absolutely cream crackered. My point? We were a bunch of 8 guys and, compared to the sombrero-wearing, bright red beach holidayers returning on the same flight, we felt pretty good about ourselves. Well I certainly did. I felt like we’d blinkin’ well made the most of a 5 day trip, squeezing every last minute out of every last hour.
Last night I showed our photos to my wife and kids. The boys jumped around the room in excitement stating that they wanted to do all the activities when they get older, though Dylan did say he wasn’t going ‘in that cave’ (until he saw the picture of a green frog which changed hismind!), and Soph looked on proudly, looking forward to her girls trip to Scotland this weekend where they’re planning a similarly packed 5 day’er.
I then went to bed, confident that I was hard-core, that I am setting a good example to my boys. And I read a chapter of Nick Bullock’s book Shadows. Nick Bullock, if you don’t know climbers, is a climber and mountaineer. I met him a few years back in a bar at Plas Y Brenin and he came across as a remarkably sane, but driven, and very likeable individual. Since then I’ve watched his new reports and read his articles on the net, and am always blown away by the stuff he gets up to. I read another chapter this lunch time, about his first stept into employment, as a rookie prison guard at Gartrie Prison which held the likes of Ian Brady and Charles Bronson. He describes one New Year’s Eve when he is on duty, petrified that Charles Bronson was about to break out of his cell, high on alcohol and drugs, and it made me feel just a little less hard-core. Here’s a man who, where I spent my early 20’s sat in front of a computer screen getting to grips with Cobol and C++, was living in the mix with most of the touchest criminals in the country.
Whereas I try to get out for a run three times a week, Nick described his daytime routine in a recent video on the net as basically one continuous mixture of training and climbing. It made me feel a little less hard-core! Three years ago I crossed paths with him again, coincidentally on a deep water soloing trip to Mallorca. He was on a mate’s stag do and we ended up at the same cliff. Whilst I sketchily clawed my way up a 7a route onto a ledge at mid-height, with no option but to jump off the 15 or so metres into the sea, Nick cast out onto the steepest bit of cliff he could find, laughing when he cut loose on the crux and plunged into the sea. It highlighted how I may not talk the talk as much as some, but I certainly think the think to myself, but people like Nick actually walk the walk.