Sunday, 26 October 2014

So It Begins It May Be Getting Darker But The Light Is There. By Jen Wilby

Autumn is finally here, it has been taunting us over the last month or so. The leaves began to change, but few of them fell. The species known as the Boulderer, watching and waiting. It never came.

Autumn has to be the most beautiful of seasons; the colours and the dramatic change are fascinating and signal that time of the year when the nights draw in, hibernation begins and the birds leave for warmer climates. However, for the boulderer, it signals the beginning.

I’ve thought a lot about this month’s blog and whether to write what I am about to write. Most of the blogs are written with my heart on my sleeve, not registering that people actually read them. However, I am very conscious that this one is personal and very public.

I’m not aware if readers have noticed a change in the last couple of blogs, reading them back, I can see a change, and uncharacteristic one, an uncomfortable one. One which may be relevant to this forum, or not. Depends why you are reading this.

About ten years ago I was diagnosed with Depression; it was a dark, tough place. A deep, muddy, murky pit that can consume you, swamp you and take you down. Thankfully, I got myself out of that pit without any assistance medically. I have no idea how, I’m just thankful that I did. For twelve years, swimming was my life. I’d be in the pool for forty sessions a week, plus gym time and comps. This left little time for a social life outside of climbing and little time for anything else, including school work :D I loved it, I didn’t need waking up at 5am, I was up and ready to train, often having days off school (oops Mum!) so I could rest ready for the next session. School classes were sacrificed on Fridays, to ensure I was fully rested before a weekend comp. When you live by such a time specific scheduled, you know nothing else. So when this is taken away from you, you find yourself lost. With no structure or routine to guide you. That is a scary experience and can drop you deep.

Climbing played an important part in the recovery. Although boulders are static, you have to think on your feet, figure moves out when on the rock, come into contact with many different types of people and it was all about challenging yourself and having fun.

At the end of the last bouldering season, I made a decision to stick to a very specific climbing schedule. I’ve done it before, so I could do it again. The aim of this schedule was to improve my weaknesses and geshido ! (Pun totally intended).

The wheels soon fell off; I became tired of climbing, tired of training. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be near a climb, talk about climbing or look at anything climbing related. I almost hated it. This coincided with the pressures of work mounting up – it’s been manic and very time consuming. So I threw myself into work, working on an evening and during weekends, paid or not. It gave me an escape from climbing, the one thing I was trying to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, the work needed to be done and there were just not enough hours in the working day to do it all.

Climbers, by nature are obsessive. Obsessions can be positive and negative, there has to be a balance. Once I’d given up on the climbing, I became obsessed with working. This switch put me into that dark, muddy place. At the time, I’d rather have sat around doing nothing, than have anything to do with climbing. I’d gone, the soul and heart seemingly empty. This lasted for what seemed like an eternity. Unable to see the light at the end, how was I going to get out of it (once I realised I was in it!?) Starting to climb the way I was, would take a lot of hard work and commitment, I wasn’t ready to train, I wasn’t ready to be shot down on moves I used to be able to do in my sleep. What on earth had happened?

The dragon got hold, it was time to look at what I could do and what I wanted to do. It was tough, making, almost forcing myself to get out of the house and go and do some climbing, because deep down beneath the murkiness, I knew I loved it and it would work.

It was really tough, I didn’t know how my body moved, I didn’t know how to hold anything and I had zero confidence in my ability. The word is persistence; forget what you used to be able to do, forget what you want to do, persist in the moment of what you are trying to do. Back to basics. Time was spent repeating blocs and I made myself sit there and try it until I had done it. It was so hard but it would have been easier to walk away.

It’s also about surrounding yourself with people who have a positive effect on you. It’s not about all this positivity, hippy stuff, but it’s true. Try it, surround yourself with people who bring out the worst in you and you will become that person. It’s for that reason; I’m only surrounding myself with certain people. We have one life; it’s got to be an awesome ride. So take those people and that ride that you actually want to be there and who will laugh with you along the way!

It worked, and I’m back :D These experiences can consume you or you can take them and use them to have a positive, productive influence on your life. I know I love climbing, I know consuming my time with work just drops me. Change my job you say…I actually like my job, it’s just all about the balance.

My attitude now is better than it was when I went into the dark place; I now go out to climb because I want to. Not because I feel like I should. I go out and climb to try certain moves, just one, with no hope or expectation of being able to do anything. This approach has relaxed the way I climb, made it more natural, more instinctive and there is not an ounce of pressure on me, by myself or anyone else at any time; and that feels awesome.

The reason I decided to write this, is because there are so many people out there who are in that dark place, or in danger of going there, or indeed are coming out of the other side. Whether it is years, months, or weeks that have passed. I want to say to you get out, surround yourself with the good, sincere and fun eggs and you will find the light and when you do, it’s flippin awesome.

For those who’ve always had the light, think twice about what you say and how you say it. You never know what rippling effect your actions may have. Be mindful and be fun.  So next time you ask me what I got “ticked” or what’s on the “wish list” – don’t, because the only thing on the “list” is to try some stuff and have some fun. No more and no less. Let’s just see what happens :D

If you are still here, well done. I won’t apologise for the story, you chose to carry on reading. Now – if you were waiting for the climbing bit, this is a climbing blog after all, here it is. Autumn is here and it’s amazing. I described Yorkshire grit last month as being different to that of the Peak and the fact that you do not need baltic conditions to be able to climb. So this month we’ve managed to explore Brimham, Caley, and Almscliff some more. Yes, you heard me, Caley :D No matter how many times you go to the Yorkshire crags there is always something to try, unless you are Sendalottie, in which case you go around trying the things you have already done another way, whilst waiting for me to get my ass up something.

Marco's party trick:
Patta's Arete:

One thing I have loved about the last couple of weekends is getting on problems that don’t suit me – giving a greater challenge.

Trying Red Tape at Brimham Photo: Steve Honeyman

The shocker of this weekend was dragging my butt up Black Chipper Arete at Brimham. I’ve seen this loads – but always believed it to be too hard for me…well, myth busters are us!

Black Chipper Photo: Steve Honeyman
Black Chipper Photo: Steve Honeyman
Video of the ascent here:

Video of the Prow at Caley:

The result of the much improved mindset is the ability to get on anything and give it a go, no matter what the grade. That means over the last few weeks I’ve done loads of stuff I’ve not been able to do before :D That has been the reward for letting go.

With the nights drawing in there have also been some head torch sessions and Steve has managed to get some wicked photo’s

Marco on Black Chipper Sit Photo: Steve Honeyman

Photo: Steve Honeyman
There is something about being out, in the dark when the world is settling down for the evening.

The rest of the month will involve checking the weather for Font. We’ve got two weeks off and have no idea what we are doing! The forecast has looked amazing over the last week, and now shows rain for a full week, starting from when we arrive. Obviously! So we shall see what happens and go where ever the weather will allow us to climb some stuff!

What’s even more exciting than two weeks of exploring and trying stuff, is the ability to check out some of PrAna’s new Autumn / Winter gear.

Axiom Jeans

This stuff really is awesome, I know folk have said it’s too pricy, but it will last years! (Unless you slide down on your ass all the time to get off the top or rocks, then only maybe a couple of years).

Anyhew, happy climbing folks! Come and visit Yorkshire, it really has some world class problems, some, mostly friendly locals, some awesome tea shops for cake after or if your tipple is ale, some nice country pubs with the local brew on tap!

PS: Of course it is all too wet right now, awful conditions, terrible, so I wouldn’t bother.

Podey loving Caley Photo: Steve Honeyman
Photo: Steve Honeyman

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