As I pulled onto my first rock climb in three months, I felt a surge of energy and happiness as my body rediscovered the joy and simplicity of moving upwards over rock. My smile defied the cold wind as it bit into my cheeks, and even the midges were almost a pleasure because I was just so psyched to be outside again. Of course, my arms didn’t last long, but I didn’t mind, not one little bit. Resting on almost every bolt, I made my way upwards, figuring out the sequences and unlocking the puzzle to get to the top of my first climb. The idea of linking it together felt impossible.
I clipped the lower-off and sat back on my rope to take in the phenomenal views. I was at “The Camel”, a huge overhanging conglomerate sport climbing crag near Inverness, the closest place in keeping with our “stay local” lockdown easing guidelines. I had been here once as a kid but memories of the cold had kept me away since, yet now I barely even cared that I was wearing two down jackets in a windy, shaded gully while the sun shone brightly everywhere else. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
I’d never been much of a sport climber, and had never experienced the process of “projecting” a climb. Yet over the next few weeks that little crag became my world and I got to know every contour, crimp and edge of the holds that adorned its routes. Soon, that “first impossible climb” became my warm-up and I could lap it three times before my arms even noticed. I was mesmerised by The Process; the way my endurance could improve, my arms could learn to recover, and my body could learn all the subtleties and intricacies of a route to refine my movements in such a way that it flowed with efficiency. It was incredibly addictive.
I tried my first ever 7C, and spent ages working out the best way to link together each series of moves. Should I do three little moves or one big hard move? Do I catch this with my left hand and swap? The route posed a million little questions and I relished the process of solving them one by one. I could lie in bed at night and remember the feel of every single hold. The rock didn’t care if I succeeded or failed, it just sat there and let me fight my battle. I was delighted when I finally managed that climb, yet it was bittersweet to say goodbye and move on to something harder.
The crag was very sociable. We shared our beta, we shared our encouragement, we shared our successes and we shared our failures. We understood each other, and that’s what I loved the most. While the cyclists cruised past in the sunshine, and the fishermen bathed by the glistening loch and even the sheep had the sense to roam around the luscious grass, we all shivered in our freezing, shaded gulley. Unapologetically obsessed about getting to the arbitrary “top” of our individual projects, united in our addiction to achieve flawless, perfect, flowing movement, and The Process of success.