On friday evening i found my dog tentatively prodding a spiky, spherical lump. She retreated to viewing distance and I too stayed to watch as the hedgehog uncurled slowly and wobbled away along the periphery of the beech hedge. It was tucked stoutly, rustling its nose in the leaves, snuffling and hedge-hogging just as you'd expect, small feet paddling in the bark. Acutely timed, the little guy makes the same journey each morning and night along the hedge and across the road. Perfectly reactive it surveys, snuffles and walks. It doesn't seem to mind the dog taking an interest either. It just curls up and waits.
I used to curl up when people tickled me. I called it the Defensive Ball and nobody could release my skinny limbs, such was the compaction achieved. I also climbed trees, lamp posts and my house. I built bases and lit fires. That fervent excitement, reactivity to stimuli, pyromania is maintained by necessity and is concentrated, reduced, distilled perhaps and through more 'serious' mediums expressed. There is nothing childish or immature about climbing trees, simply it is unadulterated expression, desire. It is normal, natural even.
With the shedding of the exam diet and my third university year i donned my summer skin and headed west. A broth of excitment and apprehension stirred. Since September i have been working on a bad rotator cuff injury which in it's acute stages prevented me from lifting my arm. Feeling rather disenfranchised as an active 'multi-activity-person', I stopped climbing for 3 months and started running more regularly. The winter blew through and i gradually regained motion and relaxed. I tiptoed back into some trad climbing in the spring and have since regained what i felt i had lost. More foccused and determined i have carefully pushed myself a little further. I can do more stuff than i could before. I have more choice. One might even suggest i have 'progressed'.
But the word is somewhat ambiguous. Progress in climbing might be determined via the fulfillment of many different elements. Grade, danger, expectation, timespan, intention, peer performance. Remove one and add another. Any one evokes it's own suite of feelings, pictures, opinions, history and future. Tunnel Vision is perhaps a familiar concept to climbers and indeed without such focus, measures of progress which we shyly hide away may remain unfulfilled. The chasm of ineptitude may widen and God forbid we may 'plateau'. Is progress simply the increase in physical performance achieved by a maintainance or increase in effort? Does thinking about it take us any closer to realising what we gain, what we want from climbing lumps of rock? Does this bear any relevance to life out with a small ledge, 50metres from the ground?
I don't really know and don't really care. I've been climbing in Scotland a lot recently. I've been thinking about climbing a lot recently and i've enjoyed climbing a lot recently. All i can conclude from my own experience is that since it all begun I've been enjoying it and everything else that comes with it. I have made great friends, explored wild places, tested myself in ways far removed from university textbooks and dare i say escaped the hum-drum-monotony-of-a-consumerist-society (only joking, i'm not really a hippy). A concluding statement perhaps? Climbing for me is a punctuated equilibrium of contentment, dictated primarily by lattitude, temperature and cloud cover as well as the aquisition of crag swag, beer and roll ups. No 'Waterfall' moment, no lightbulb, no serene vision. Except the hedgehog. That was cool.
|Garbh Choire and the crag of dreams. 3 hours from the road and covered in lichen.|
|Rory climbing a new route, The Scraggle Ladder (Ben Avon) - E2 5c|
|Sinclair on the third pitch of Prophecy of Drowning (Pabbay) - E2 5c|
|Me on Sugar Cane Country (Pabbay) - E4 6a (Harry Holmes)|
|Sinclair getting drenched on Donald's boat|
|Sinclair following me up Sula (Mingulay) - E2 5b|
|Me on The Torridonionion (Seanna Mheallain)- E3 5c (Sinclair Cooper)|
|Sinclair following me up Angel Face (Beinn Eighe) - E2 5c|
|Sinclair and I above Far East Wall (Beinn Eighe)|
|Me on the second ascent of This Timeless Moment (Shetland) - E2 5b (Andrew Appleby)|
|A 'new' route i climbed mostly onsight. I fell retreating to the the middle hands off rest but continued on free from it thereafter. Will return for a 'proper' ascent and more next year. The crag is Fogla Taing (Shetland) and the route is E4 6a/b|
|Me on the FA of Spyro (Fogla Taing) - E2 5c (Liam Malone)|
|A puffin at Sunburgh Head (Shetland)|
|Graham and I soloing Lean Meat (Aberdeen) - E3 5c (Thomas Shaw)|
|Graham on the crux pitch of Moonshine (Beinn Eighe) - E4 6a|
|Me following Graham up The Pale Diedre (Beinn Eighe) - E2 5c (Graham Tyldesly)|
|Graham and the Coulin hills from Beinn Eighe|