Three or four years ago I found a really good boulder in the Vicdessos valley, near the popular and developed area of Laramade. I was very surprised no one had found it before, being about 45 degree overhanging some evidence of cleaning or chalk would have been visible, but nothing showed any sign of having been climbed on.
Initially the wall seemed very hard. I spent about a year with the occasional visits spent trying moving and envisaging the lines. After a couple of forays up the far left and far right of the face at about 6c /7a ish I decided the original line I was trying was too hard, it was not an eliminate but it did not necessarily follow the easiest line. Two years ago, I started to understand that climbing the easiest line was also in fact quite hard.
I feel very ambivalent about climbing this problem. I expected a far greater sense of joy. I think that having a long term project over a period when so much has happened and changed; deaths, marriage, births, global pandemic and Brexit. That it is what it is and that is not much at all. I thought I was having an existential crisis, but I think in reality my reaction is actually in proportion.
A plateau high up on the south face of a mountain, looking to Spain across a flat valley, smoke from the towns and villages, make a disc of yellowish haze. The silence is strong, wood against wood in the trees and beak against wood from the birds. Occasional and sporadic gusts of wind rattle the dry leaves left on the branches, the snow removes all other sound, and my presence is neglible as is my sense of any self.
I drove across the mountains from a grey, damp and cold, through the tunnel into bright sunlight and warmer temperatures. The journey is only short but puts a distance to the struggle and darkness that sometimes descends.
My father is ill, and no matter how much light fills the landscape, the darkness can only ever fade.
Five weeks in; tested out on my power endurance project on my board, made it a few moves past my previous best efforts. So I guess it works. I can now do many more press ups, a few more pull ups, but I have still haven’t given up drinking too much wine. Maybe that’s the next step.
In the second week of this programme and each session has involved dealing with a sensation that can only be described as mild nausea. I remember this feeling, years ago when I ‘trained’, now its clear that for years I have only been putting effort into the things that I enjoyed. For example, hanging off and moving on small holds I like, thus I do lots of it and think I’m training. This last couple of weeks I have been doing amongst other awful exercises; ‘planks’, they are horrible, what is their to enjoy from passing from fatigue to feeling sick, heart pounding, red in the face and vibrating from head to toe, basically nothing.
I looked in the woods and I found a very promising unclimbed boulder. I came back with brushes and a ladder and cleaned the moss and dirt from the boulder. Revealed beneath was a prow of granite, hidden in the trees, a thing of interest a thing of desire. On my second visit I began to piece the moves together, complex yes, but everything seemed to be in the right place, every move was powerful and interesting. I’d found a beauty.
It’s now a project, it’s harder than I thought. Thirteen moves long, none easy a mid way crux and a difficult finish.
I went for a long drive to go bouldering; in the end I didn’t climb much at all. After crossing the Pyrenees I drove across vast tracts of empty arid Spanish landscapes, boggling in its scale and occasionally marvelling at its detail. I had plenty of time to think on this long journey. Bouldering has for a few weeks lost some magic, relentless failure and snow has left me jaded, the pursuit of projects had numbed my desire. The trip was cut short, just too much snow, I was back home and today drove out to look at some recent discoveries and to try an old project. Exploration and newness left me refreshed and invigorated, this is what bouldering for me has always been about, the creative, unknown, the possibilities.
One night whilst away I drank a bottle of wine in a white plastic hotel room and watched on rolling news the unfolding spectacle that is Trump. I’ve been completely out of touch from mainstream news media, only getting the endless second hand horror from Facebook. Are we moving into an un-theorised phenomenological era? There has never been TRUTH, any event or happening or experience is always represented and mediated, always serves a specific discourse, there is always a transition and an impossibility to represent the act itself. A ‘post truth’ world, of ‘alternate facts’ and ‘falsehoods’. The FB’s, the tweeters, the instagrammers, are a generation of experience seekers, their lives documented and sprayed for all to see, nowadays a life or experience without mediation means nothing…Beuys and Warhol in different ways prescient…and in principle the contestation of truth is a good thing. This directly leads us to a world where politicians are celebs, the message is a massage, the desire for popularity, success and winning comes at a price. That price is mass idiocy. An opinion, is an opinion is an opinion and we get Trump and Brexit.
Let’s build a bridge across the Atlantic, a wall to divide America from Mexico, let China suffocate, all the animals are dead, the world is too hot, burnt toast is bad for you…