....Up to my pits in a slimy offwidth limestone fissure, my legs locked and barred somewhere below, or was that in front, loot at Chudleigh was beginning to win. My hexes are too small, I need a size 13. as chalk dissolves, lips tremble and bladder's quiver worryingly, Its time to face thine enemy....
The wolf who stalks, the dread, the wobbles, the brown sticky, call it what you want. I've got to thinking that fear is the gilded turd in the large punchbowl that is our climbing experience. You can hang the invisible hold, invoke the mystic force of "frick-shun", but as the brown sticky rises, that nut wobbles, the rope passes runnerless into the void, the storm clouds brew and a sheep does a perfect tuck-with-double-twist passed you and down to your belayer...There comes a time where you must do the business, or at least call upon a benevolent deity.
What is this fear? that little minx. Is it an aversion to an imminent death? this is usually negated by using ropes, posh lumps of metal and an disinclination towards Mick Fowler and Pat Littlejohn routes. Seconds soil pants as well, and I haven't managed to kill one yet. I would surmise that an abhorrence of injury and failure are more pressing worries. Pain is not nice (unless that's your bag) and as climbing is such a personal thing, we tend to take failure rather seriously. This can cause the irrational white Ferrari frights to overtake the Robin Reliant of rational thought, causing a foot drop and a grazed knee to be viewed on a par with total dismemberment and sodomy via that nut key on the back of your harness.
My most vivid recollection of the great incontinence inducer was while out on one on Gripp Type Thynne at Long Quarry Point in Devon. Noakes had just backed off the third pitch (not his thang due to its hostile disposability) stripping the belay in the process. Hanging off Pat's old peg we discussed the way ahead, and it slowly dawned that the pitch had to be mine, oh yes. Know fear. Ten minutes later I was excavating gear, and reaching for the most permanent of the holds. I ended up strung out above a herbaceous runner, the way ahead smeared by a recent mud slide I yelled down that I may have to go off route. "what, again" came the cry. Now with more gear.. and all four points on clay, I chose to go back on route (I'd left the warthog in my bag). Looning was the answer, and after a small (unplanned 30 footer) pendulum into some of my other mates (well, I thought it was funny, they thought I was dead) the next belay was gained. Fear over- new pants please.
That ohshitohshitohshit feeling has to be the stumbling block I have found to being a well 'ard rock star (well..in my universe..). Freezing up, wobbling off holds, running away at a rapid rate, all these are not all that helpful when it comes to cranking climbs of extreme stiffness. How do we control and conquer the diuretic dread? the pant pooper that thwarts our development as climbers, and impedes our progression towards really cool posy solos. There are three particular approaches used in the war against the mind killer (note: sad Dune reference). These are Confrontation, Denial and Psyching out.
Facing Your Fear, Laughing in the face of danger and tweaking the nose of adversity etc. The idea is an old one, afraid of heights = become a window cleaner, afraid of falling = take some practice lobs ( probably best to used someone elses rope), afraid of violent perforation = get an old tent peg and...oops bit carried away there, but you see the principle. The 'nads out approach (not sexist, gonads is a generic term) may push your grade, or puncture a lung.... but it is butch.
Denial, delusion, I'm not here, I am in fact at home in bed with the wife, and these surroundings are purely coincidental.. Ho Hum, I'm not listening....maybe you don't ever get that extreme, I know I don't.... I do, however, believe in the holding power of a 00 walnut and I am Batman...oh yes. Not much use this when it comes to a big ripper, but in high peril, a little lying to yourself may keep that foot from discoing into oblivion.
Many have tried to persuade me that psyching out is the way forward, entering the zone, exiting emotion, logic rules OK....This involves the induction of a fixed mind state through emptying of thoughts, stripping down to a focus point (like meditation) or pumping up on anger or some other macho emotion so fear has no room. Either method means fear has no room to gain power over your bladder. However without room to make quick decisions, it could all go horribly wrong.
Personally I recommend looning out. This involves believing you will get to the top, being drawn to Mick Fowler routes, seeking out esoterica (I am that esoterrorist) seeing what happens and perfecting the maniacal giggle, which, I am informed, intimidates seconds and causes my friends to black ball routes....oh well more for me.
So there it is, fear is bad, staying alive is good. Throwing a wobbly at the bottom of a vdiff is bad, eerily cackling through the mist while peeling off disposable handholds is good. Remember there is nothing to fear but being speared on a suitably sharp geological formation.
Oh yes I did get some gear to stay in Loot, other than the peg and a crafty nut wedged behind it that is. Good job too, as in the final groove, I launched lithely backwards into the murky grey yonder, leaving a little elbow as a momento.