Sunday, 15 September 2013

Fighting ghosts at Ghost Kitchen

Third day on and we headed for the crimpy walls and tufa pillars of Ghost Kitchen. R had decided to take a rest day (or perhaps she just didn’t trust my driving quite yet...) so I had a chance to get used to the scooter on my own. We set off relatively early, but not early enough; it appeared everyone else had also decided to go to Ghost Kitchen for the day!

We warmed up on Pic Pic (6b), a beautiful slab route with good holds and nice moves. Next up, Resista; a 6c which takes an improbable line up a steep, imposing red wall. H went first, gleefully pocket-pulling her way up the route and lowering off with a huge smile on her face. I set off and immediately saw why; an easy slab led to the steep wall, where good pockets arrived just where you needed them, and move followed beautiful move. Clipping the chains, Resista immediately shot into my Top 10 all time favourite routes.

N eying up the headwall of Resista (6c)

Two other routes go up this fantastic red wall, Le Mythe de la Caverne (7a), to the left of Resista, and Globus (6c+) to the right. N and H had already done Mythe, but we figured it would be rude not to complete the trio. H cruised up it, putting the clips in, then it was my turn. This was my first 6c+ onsight attempt, and there were a couple of gripping moments; particularly when balanced on the blank looking wall figuring out the technical crux moves, trying to forget the fact that my last bolt was below my feet. But the climbing was so good and involved, that I found myself focusing purely on each move, totally absorbed in the climbing; working out how to use the small sidepulls and crimps and where I needed to place my feet to be able to reach, in balance, up to the next hold. Before I knew it, I was through the crux and onto the juggy pockets which led – with some interesting moves – to the chain. Tick!

N7 (7a) had been recommended by a friend of ours as a possible onsight proposition so, despite N’s hatred of spikey grey slabs, we went over to have a look. H led the way once again, with smooth climbing up the initial bulge, through the slab in the middle and onto the crux wall near the top of the route; overbalancing slightly on the crux, but a great onsight effort. 

I nervously tied in, checking and rechecking my knot, making sure my shoes were clean and I had plenty of chalk. Resolving to take it one clip at a time, I set off. The climbing suited me; small, positive holds for both hands and feet with lovely, delicate, crimpy climbing. Worried about getting calf pump and the dreaded jelly-leg (I have pathetically weak legs) I climbed quickly through the initial bulge and slab, up to the crux wall. The bolts were close together here, giving me the confidence to make the slightly off-balance moves on small crimps and sidepulls. Then it was just a case of keeping going, fighting the pump to get through to a rest before the final few moves to the chains. 

Struggling with my head and the fear of falling has often put a shadow over my climbing and held me back from pushing myself on harder routes. Particularly this year, I found it affecting my enjoyment of climbing, found myself thinking more about how far I had to climb to my next bolt or piece of gear, than the moves; unable to let go of the fear and allow myself to relax and enjoy the climbing. Whether it was the friendly bolting, the style of the routes that suited me, or simply that I was totally psyched, I finally felt able to carry on climbing; to focus on the moves and not the bolts and to accept that I might fall, and that that would be ok. 

At Ghost Kitchen I managed for a day, to put aside some of my ghosts, and rediscover what I really love about sport climbing. Of being in a bubble, where there is only you and the rock; where you can challenge yourself and success or failure is down to you alone. Where sequences flow, and you become hypersensitive to the slightest change in your body position. When you know that the holds will be there, and it’s just a matter of working out the puzzle of how to use them; of climbing on and on, until you either reach the top, or you cannot hold on any longer. 

It may be incomprehensible to non-climbers, and even perhaps to some climbers; we all have different reasons for climbing. But for me, this is the very essence of why I climb; the drug that sees me through the bad head days and brings me back again, and again. It’s sometimes easy to forget this, when training is tough and you’re struggling to push yourself mentally or physically. So thank you, Ghost Kitchen, for helping me remember.

View from Ghost Kitchen

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