boulder being

I’m often moved to question what bouldering is all about and what it means.

So much of my time is spent bouldering in isolation. This is when the intensity and focus becomes greatest, yet it can also makes me question why I’m engaged in such a solitary pursuit.

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Bowling Alley, Godrevy, Photo by Rowan Spear -Bulmer. 2015.

As I move away from the social, finding myself deep in the black and gloomy ‘bowling alley’ at Godrevy, I’ve thought… I’m done with this place. Two months ago I did what I genuinely thought was the culmination of my interest. I’d added a couple of moves to To LTP left and thought that was that, nothing harder to do. I called the problem madeleine eats cake, But as I hit the finish jug, there was little elation, I felt empty, I’d expected more, both from the problem and my response. On this occasion I didn’t walk away and drink chanpange and rest on my laurels…I shifted my mat two feet to the right and started work on Dave Biggs LTP traverse. The Passage of Time.

I have such an intense love hate relationship with this place. The approach when the tide is in, is down a steep path to the flat rock platform above the trench or alley. It’s a perfect spot to survey the problems before climbing down to the bouldering. I then find myself in a narrow corridor of rock, the problems on the overhanging black face, in front of me and the stepped descent behind me. After spending time down here it’s a relief to climb up the steps and regain a vista and a sense of perspective. This perspective is also accompanied by a powerful sense of nostalgia and recognition of time passing. The original and somewhat pretentious names* that I gave these boulder problems now kind of mock me with a retrospective prescience as I fail to walk away, as I fail on a problem, or in this case start working a new problem.

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Looking down into the Bowling Alley, Godrevy, Photo by Rowan Spear -Bulmer. 2015.

I breathe deeply and smile inwardly, this problem felt hard, I was happy again, as this became a project for the next couple of months or so.

It is the process and the journey that’s so engaging, the result  basically so profoundly uninteresting, only mattering at the cutting edge of bouldering, the sport. For me, my passion swings between ebbs and highs and some-days as I sit at home and wonder where or what to do, a gloom transcends over me, the black dog hovers over my shoulder…yet the ‘boulder being’ takes over, it’s a place where I can be and even in the gloom of a cloudy and damp day, with the rock oozing moisture and a damp sea fret pushing in off a sea that rises fast with an oncoming tide. I flap and brush and curse at the rock, yet in a small and intense way I am happy. Nothing much comes of sessions such as this, at least not in any easily quantifiable way, yet it reinforces a connection to the material world that matters to me.

I drive home and the loneliness surfaces again, I want to drive and drive until I can think no more.

This kind of thinking has got me once again into the position of considering the nature of a bouldering philosophy. I’ve completed a PhD and I find a publisher that is interested in my solipsistic musings on the nature of this activity. I’ve declared that I will write a book, he says ‘great’, I say ‘great’, I say I will write it in the autumn.

* Le temps passe

So solitude takes us so far then the search for the meaning takes us back into the realms of the social. In this case this was the best I found after a search for bouldering philosophy on the internet. There’s not a lot of reflective thought and writing on bouldering and philosophy, at least not much stretching established conventions. Understandably the Bleausards have a good go, the second video has some nice stuff and the first is the legend, John Gill laying down some thoughts.

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