As a rule, I'm not a massive crier. Yes, I allow myself one 'work-cry' a year and I do find the airport arrivals hall VERY emotional, but in day-to-day life I've normally got my shit together. So why is it that when I get on a rock, my face is drowning in salty tears?
These are NOT conscious, grumpy tears or tears for attention. This is an unconscious stream of fear pouring down my chops. Hot and stingy, accompanied by shallow panicky breathing until I reach the next belay. These are 'do not look at me, do not talk to me' silent sobs. My climbing is improving. I'm exposing myself to more and more climbing experiences and yet I still can't get my head in the game.
It begins with the walk-in to the crag. A steep walk-in puts me on immediately on edge; I'm worried for what's to come. Next up, is a chatty climber on the route next to you, who is intent on telling your how this 4a feels like a 6a. Please be quiet. Then it's the lonely wait at the bottom while your climbing buddy is ferreting away out of sight somewhere in the heavens above. The echoey call "You're on belay" looms down and off I climb into the unknown, praying for the holds to be kind and rock to be lumpy. What normally follows is an exposed sheet of slab and the wind whipping up around me - cue the silent tears and shallow breathing.
My sob-story so far:
- November 2017 - First multi-pitch climb in El Chorro, Spain (blog HERE). CRIED
- December 2017 - Failed multi-pitch climb at Bosigran, Cornwall. CRIED A LOT
- April 2018 - North Wales; scrambling and climbing, 6 mountains in 4 days. CRIED
- May 2018 - North Wales, 4 days of multi-pitch climbing CRIED
I'd love to say it's because I'm trying to nail a tricky move and they're tears of frustration. But it's not true. I'm just REALLY scared of falling off. Is it the fear of the unknown? (Probably). Is it because I have a child and dying would be extremely inconvenient? (Most certainly). Is it the feeling that it would be quite embarrassing to bail out half-way into a multi-pitch route? (Definitely). Is it because the fear of falling is an innately scary feeling? (Hell YES). All these things make my head a very noisy place to be. I just need them to shush now.
My ever-patient other half and climbing geek, @paultaylorclimbing, tells me I need to sort my head out. I agree. At the end of the day he's the one leading all the climbs and doing the risky business of placing gear etc - I'm basically just following him skywards on a giant lead.
There is a bit of science out there to imply I'm not a complete maniac... Studies suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body's natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones. Crying is the body's protection mechanism that reacts to stressful situations. So in theory, this is all self-preservation!
And there are plenty of positives that come out of these trips too:
- I've never been put off climbing
- I'm always happy when I reach the top
- I haven't punched Paul and he hasn't punched me (yet)
- I still get invited on Paul's climbing trips (although i suspect my days are numbered if I don't sort it out soon)
- Being terrified definitely makes me feel alive
So where next? I just want a weekend's worth of tear-free ascents. My next climbing trip is in a month. so let's see if I can get psyched enough to tell those little voices to do one. Wish me luck.