Being crap in PE at school, it is surprising to think that it was my PE teacher who got me into climbing. Although I was good enough in the gym, I can remember sitting out many rugby and football lessons, though I can't now remember why. The PE teacher was Eric Howells, who had been a very good climber. He'd done stuff like Vector in the sixties and had climbed in the Dolomites. He was still young but had packed it in as he began to settle down into ordinary life. I can remember flicking through some climbing book in the changing room, whilst most of the other kids were out in the mud and thinking that climbing looked much more like fun. Soon enough, I was hooked. My school mate John Roberts had been on a course at Plas y Brenin and could tie knots and belay. Eric Howells lent us the gear and we went out and taught ourselves how to climb on Capel Pinnacles and Idwal Slabs. Could you imagine any sensible teacher today doing such a thing? Imagine what could happen to somebodies career.
The OCD has been my best friend for the 40 years I've been climbing here, there and everywhere. You see, there have always been far better climbers than me. More talented and much stronger. However, over the years my obsessive nature has helped me remember the intricate sequences of so many climbs and by simply sticking at it I've had so much fun. Nige Hunt would say "Never go down"! In other words don't give in (especially when the going gets tough).
John and I worked our way through the grades, getting more and more confident, though John was much better than me. However, John's aspirations seemed to reach a plateau, whereas I wanted to keep on pushing, even though sometimes the outcome was a close run thing. We eventually went our own ways.
Trad climbing basically means climbing on sight without falling, as the gear is often very dodgy and a fall could be serious. However, sport climbing involves falling off lots (until you are able to link all the moves without falling), though it is safe because the gear is in situ bolts. This in turn means that you can do much harder climbs, with practice. Tim Lowe introduced me to sport climbing in 1987 at Malham. A whole new concept of dogging moves and repeated falls opened up new horizons. At that time Obsession and New Dawn involved me investing several days of effort before success was achieved. But it was a step up the ladder. Seeing people like John Dunne, Yorkie, Mick Lovatt and Ian Horrocks at work on their chosen projects was fascinating. I knew I'd done harder trad stuff, but they had the edge when it came down to redpointing. It took me a while to realise that they just stuck at it and "never went down".
However, there is a fine line between going on something that is achievable and something way beyond your ability. Though, when you start piecing together your chosen project you don't always know for sure. In March 1993, Glenn Sutcliffe, Keefe Murphy and I started working The Austrian Oak at Malham. Glenn was in the GB team at that time and very strong. He sent the route pretty quickly. Keefe got very close, but for some reason left it and eventually did it much later. I had to build a replica on my board and spent 13 very stressful days falling off before I wobbled my way to the chain! After 3 days it would have been easy to give up (and that's now the time I'm prepared to spend on a route, unless it is something special). However, I did stick at it and eventually got the job done, although I was much happier doing my next project (Predator) in only 2 days.
Since moving down here, I've taken on some hefty challenges. Memorable, lengthy sieges have seen me eventually clip the chains on Mortal Kombat and Barjoland (both 8b at Castillon). However, I invested a lot of time on Soul Sacrifice (8b, Deverse) and Souffle du Vizir (8b+, Peillon) only to never get the job done. I actually did Souffle du Vizir 3 times with only 1 fall on the pockets near the start, getting back on and going all the way to the top. Perhaps I should have lowered down and tried again. Who knows? It becomes hard for me to keep trying the same climb for too long, despite the possibility that the next go could be the one that counts.
So, it seems that being obsessive is great up to a point, but being compulsive can be a hindrance. In other words it is good sticking at it but sooner or later the desire to do something different takes over.
Well done to Pete Chadwick for sticking at getting the job done on Predator, despite falling off well above the hardest climbing several times and having to put up with Eddie taking the piss out of him. And good luck to him settling the score on The Oak. Stick at it mate and never go down!
|Pete Chadwick sticking at it on Predator|
|Sticking at it on Mortal Kombat, a dream come true in 2005. No my left foot is not on the bolt. Photo by Phil Maurel,|
|Simon Lee on the difficult start of The Austrian Oak|