A Question of Style.
After many years away, I’m rediscovering the desire to climb again. It’s been so long, and it seems my break has brought about a fresh start, both mentally and physically. While it’s frustrating to have to work up to doing climbs that were once routine, I’m in such a different mental space, it all feels very new and fun again. It fits my pattern of weaving in and out of activities or finding new life in old things. I think Yvon Chounard summed it up well in calling himself an “Eighty Percenter”.
“I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession that doesn’t appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level I like to go off and do something totally different…” -from Let My People Go Surfing
I can identify strongly. I’ve dabbled in most aspects of the sport, roamed the rocks with packs of people and pads and ropes, but looking back, my most memorable days on rock seem to be the ones spent alone. Naturally, this is what drew me away from sport and trad and into bouldering. The ritual was quite simple; wake up before sunrise, drive through the mountains, hike the approach as the sky was turning, and ideally find myself sitting atop a boulder to watch the sunrise. It was a physical meditation. I did this for many years, especially seeking out obscure and unclimbed routes in the periphery of developed areas. I’m feeling the siren song again and find myself stashing climbing shoes in my pack before trail runs, scouring my local hills for new things.
Six months ago I joined up at my old climbing gym, hoping to get back into the habit and develop some regular climbing fitness. It was a slap in the face and had the exact opposite effect. I walk in on a Thursday evening to music blaring, people everywhere…
I climbed there twice, paid up the rest of my contract, and walked away.
I’m no doubt a different person than I was in my earlier gym days. This is not a judgement on the people or the gym, it was simply immediately apparent it wasn’t what I was looking for.
Fortunately I just found a better “gym”, a spot where I can train the way I please. It’s outside, very close to home, completely secluded, with only birdsong in the air. At 10 to 15 feet tall and over 100 feet long, this retaining wall has countless difficulty levels and is big enough for my main goal of endurance work. That this man-made wall has been sitting right under my nose for years and I only just discovered it motivates me to find what else is hidden right within my stomping grounds.
Sometimes little discoveries like this are a wake-up call, a sign that I was looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place, that I have grown and my preferences have changed. It’s a reminder that I have to be true to myself, that I have to surf my own waves and climb my own rocks. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that after all these years, I’ve unconsciously developed my own style and I’m feeling its gravity.