For months now I have been in recovery mode, healing up and trying to get back to where I was before my injury. The road may not have been perfectly tarred but it continues to be a scenic journey of introspection, self realisation and constant adjustment. There were many sad days and a great deal of frustration along the way but the break has given me new perspective. There is nothing quite like a shift in focus to force you to get to the root of what it is that really excites you about climbing.
The last few weeks have proven that I will soon be back where I was. I have been surfing and trad climbing and even getting back to a bit of fiction writing. These are things that I neglect when I begin to train vigilantly. Having adjusted to life without training, it is both exciting and intimidating to get back into it properly. I have caught a glimpse of what it is that I have been missing out on, having been so focused on climbing for so many years. Although it has been great to reflect on this, it has also made me more aware of how valuable having a focus like climbing is to my well being.
This year I have started training in a much more structured way and early into the program I am seeing the results. I am in about the third week of a power oriented phase of training and I can feel that I will have a strong power base to move on from. My sessions have to be very intense and specific, allowing time for work schedules and life. Although I have not been entirely vigilant at sticking to the program, it is becoming increasingly part of my new routine. Only a few weeks in and climbing is fun again. Everything from easy but adventurous multi pitch climbing to boulder competitions have got me remembering why it is that I want to be a climber for as long as humanly possible.
Utopia is a three pitch route graded about 13. It requires a fair amount of route finding and as it traverses a fair amount, it was as intimidating for the seconder as it was for the leader. I was fortunate enough to climb this route again recently. It was good to see my friend Greg Thompson at home in this kind of territory. He kept a cool head on lead on the first pitch and contributed valuable experience to the team. His optimism never waivers and he is always game for the next challenge. He would be an asset on any mentally bold route.
Greg’s athletic knowledge from days as a competitive cyclist have given me good motivation to get strong and competition climbing fit again. We had a relatively novice climber with us, Jo, who managed to pull his leading pitch out of the bag, placing excellent gear. Despite fear induced nausea, Jo held his own and shows the crucial ability to keep going despite being scared. I was reminded how much more experience I need in this realm of climbing, but it was so good to be sitting on a ledge, yelling “off belay!” to somebody somewhere below me. There is something very special about watching birds fly below you.
On the single pitch front, I have racked up two classics. Child of Darkness and the Flames of Sunset. These are the kinds of gems that will keep me going back to Monteseel’s dreamy single pitch perfection.
On the sport front, I have been repeating old favourites and I even managed to tick off a nemesis, the Last Straw (28/7c), after months of pretending it wasn’t there. It went easily in an afternoon and it feels like new projects are lining up everywhere.
I am very glad to have had a few key individuals around during my recovery time. It has been an emotional time and one of healing on many levels. To Greg B, thanks for being there when there was nobody else. To Jackie, you really are AWESOME. To Greg T, thanks for reminding me of my athletic potential. To Tristan for your unwavering patience and support on so many levels (please try not to fall out of the sky again too soon). To Jo, thanks for the extra joy you have added, all the belays in the rain and early morning surfs that have kept me sane. To Scott, Trent and Roger for the use of your racks and many golden belays. Garret, Brig and Muff, thanks for your ever present friendship. uMuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.