self portrait

IMG_1358Friday 5th September

Bouron Marlotte
Another very warm day, warm enough for me to admit a temporary defeat on Beatle Juice. The holds are at-the best of times greasy, right now they are horrible. Maybe later in the trip the temperatures will drop a bit and I’ll give it another go.

It’s very strange being here in the late summer/early autumn, much less depressing than the gloomy rainy days you get in the winter. Still I wouldn’t say I’m that I’m entirely happy, this trip has been nothing short of disaster in so many ways, breakdowns seemingly every week, hire car prangs and even today after the van is reasonably going well, this morning the wipers don’t work. I think basically the electrics are a bit screwed, we will see. The upshot though is that we don’t trust the van for the full trip, its staying put in Font. If we go elsewhere it will be by hire car, train or bus. Jane has taken the bus and is in Chamonix for the weekend. I’m a bit jealous. Hopefully we can both go to the Alps later next week, Magic Wood in cooler temps appeals a lot right now.

Thinking about luck right now, wonder if it’s time time that our luck changed. What I would like is for things to settle down a bit, letting me get in the swing of things, trusting things, like the van a bit more. I don’t feel right climbing at the moment, I’m overgripping, afraid of falling badly, afraid of getting injured and afraid of exacerbating existing injuries. I basically need to chill out, easily said and harder to do.

So what of narrative. The story of breakdowns and French garages and what else? Something else and much else are also going on and have gone on. The story of a boulderer for instance, the specific experiences of the boulderer that is I or me or Andy, who climbs like an addict, with an addiction that at times defines me. The history of climbing is littered with addicts and like all addicts I don’t know when to stop or how to act in moderation.

Today I videoed myself on a problem. I failed many times on the problem and as I contemplated the blank indifference of the boulder, sat squat and mute in a forest of beauty and tranquility that I could barely register, I saw a man approach me in the frame of the video that I barely recognised. He was older than I thought, his limbs rangey, stringy, muscles laid bare to view, by excess and lactic. He looked insane. I couldn’t say what brought him here and he couldn’t tell me. I hope we meet again. (In retrospect a day later I wonder do I want to meet him again)

Next morning the bivouac/campsite slowly clears as I make coffee. I’m attempting to recall the thoughts I had last night. I was thinking about the video image, a representation of somebody, me in fact. I was thinking along the lines of…..our need and prevalence to record our actions…

In the social media age this is nothing new. However in the context of bouldering this does cause me some problems. It takes me further from the experience of bouldering, forcing it into a representational, social arena instead. At it’s best, in my view, bouldering is a solopsistic and reflective process. It’s this aspect I’ve currently lost. A focus on performance, grades and videoing has left me deprived of the engagement with the primary experience. Videoing problems has its place, good for sponsored wads, documenting new problems, also good for recording trips with friends. But not any use for the solitary boulderer. Who cares if I climb a 7A+, the answer is no one and if videoing detracts and becomes a negative and debilitating pressure then leave the bloody camera in the bag or the van. Does this 7A+ need another video on the web, again the answer is no. Why not approach the problem as new, rather than with the clutter and prejudice of endless web beta, a horrible word that feels alien amongst the forest and birdsong, beta speaks of a digital world, that has no place in the reflexive and solitary world that I seek as a boulderer.

A day later, everything feels different, there is no black and white, experience is a layered thing and after a guilty search for beta on, I’m at Drei Zennen trying the sit start to cocoon. It gets 8A, and that’s all that matters, it’s also not a bad line, which helps. I’m full of beta, video, grades and I’ve even been on the hateful Yet even though the temperatures are high, humidity is high, my skin is sore, I’m kind of happy. I’m trying a problem that is hard, I have no camera and in fact, there is no useful beta. I’ve found the solitude that I sought and I’m deep in the processes of bouldering, not happy but IN IT.

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