Friday, May 13, 2011

Mind Games

by Shelley

At work I’m always dealing with crime issues. I also deal a lot with peoples’ perceptions of crime, safety and fear. I walk down the same streets as everyone else and the panhandler, the drunk, the mentally challenged, the young kid with the baggy pants and his boisterous friends . . . they don’t concern me; I know I’m safe even if they ask for money, stagger in front of me, yell obscenities, or try to look tough. I know the facts and figures and it’s a rare occasion that anything more than that happens; and if it does, I’m confident I can handle myself.

But sometimes a person’s imagination can get in the way and make things larger than they are. For me, climbing is a case in point. And climbing is almost always about pushing out of one’s comfort zone. Especially at a place like Skaha with an abundance of routes well within my capabilities and above.

We’ve just spent the past three days climbing here and I’ve been trying to up my grade level and get more comfortable on the old classics.

Dryathlon is a one-pitch trad (natural gear, not bolted) route. It starts off fairly easy, with the crux about half way up where you start by standing on what I remembered as a thin pointy rock shaped like a dagger. I had it in my head that if I fell from a few moves above this I would land with the sharp end of the rock sticking out my back or my chest, depending on how I landed. Sort of like movies where the good guy’s sword runs through the bad guy and there’s an end sticking out the other side. I was surprised when I got there. I’ve been on this route many times before. In reality, it’s not a pointy rock at all! It’s long and narrow. It still made me nervous though as I hung leaning backward, stemmed across an awkward corner a few feet above it trying to place a piece of gear. But it was a solid placement! As Andrew so eloquently put it afterwards, “That nut (protection) you put in while you were hyperventilating was hard to get out!”

Double Exposure is another trad route that always makes my palms sweat. It’s a beautiful route with two steep corner ramps (hence the “double”).  The trick is getting from one ramp to the other. It’s next to impossible if you don’t get your hands onto a certain under-cling; and to do that, you need to get your feet up high enough on the rock. The gear placements below you aren’t the greatest; and as many times as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get a good gear placement to protect the move up and over. So if you fall from here it’s a long slide down the first ramp. Not nice! But I know exactly what needs to be done, I’ve done it before, so the fear is somewhat irrational!

The classic route at Skaha is Plumline. A 35m long sustained sport route on a steep cliff face; one of the first you see as you arrive at the bluffs. It’s always spectacular to see someone moving gracefully up the route. I’ve climbed it many times over the years and now can do it with relative ease. The holds are (mostly) really positive. The neat thing is that you so often look up and wonder where the heck the next hold is – or you can see it but can’t reach it. The trick is to look down at your feet. You’ll find more holds, move your feet up and suddenly the handholds are within reach and visible. The scary part is at the very top. Suddenly the positive holds disappear and you have to deal with slopers to get over the edge at the top. It always makes me a bit nervous. I’m well aware I can make the move so, again, irrational fears.

It’s all mind games. The rock plays with my head a lot! But when I take control of the game and do the moves and climb the route anyway . . . wow, what a great feeling!

(click to view photos)

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