Monday, 27 February 2012

The Mission

Written during the winter of 2011,  I was at this stage, speaking from the position of my self image. That being said, I was unaware of the tremors of oscillation, rippling on the waters of my perception. What I mean, is that with pure presence you feel instant connectivity and expanded awareness without having to think about it. When that occurs on walls of rock and ice, the energy of the mountains and the power of the being converge, serving up a sense of potent power and infinite possibilities.
It starts in brief gaps when the pressures really on and thus, the oscillations began. However, I identified this feeling with the act of climbing only and then felt this to be my calling, forming a concept and an idea of myself. I was not aware at this time that we will never be free 'As' the ego, only 'From' the ego.
I cherish the mountains with all my heart but it does not compare to the magnitude of encountering the Divine Within.

Today is the 27th of February and I'm due to be back in England in 13 days. After numerous trips away from the homeland since 2006, i get asked the eternal questions of "Well, how was it?, What did you learn? Did you have a good time? Hows it feel to be back in reality?" etc (Again & again)

These were met with the usual bug eyed bouts of enthusiasm and excitement, showing off a multitude of photos from the tumbling waves and tranquil forests to an increasing amount of rocks. It was clear from my absence from most of the photos that a chord was struck with the natural elements. (Unbeknown to me, embers were smouldering and spirals were turning).

I'd tell stories of all the craziness encountered with different cultures and ideals that only a babe, young and clean shaven could have thought was so alien from his normal reality  like a little lamb that wandered from its pastures for the first time.

But this year was different.

In 2011, after months of training, i left for Canada, alone with only my hopes and determination for company. Pretty soon, i learned that with a sense of purpose, the latter is a powerful thing.  I Spent the spring in Revelstoke, exploring the sport climbing scene and ate up over a hundred routes in under three months but this was not enough. I was working construction during the day, climbing by evening and consuming as much mountain literature as i could. I was hard on the few friends that i made here, if they had other commitments and lost them as a result. Clearly i needed a change of scene. This is where Squamish came into view.

Standing under the Chief which is 500m (1,640ft) of soaring granite walls and boulders from refrigerator blocks to houses, entangled within the sublime forests encircling the chief, it is quite the sensation. I was home. And it still is, in my heart.

From then on, i donned the trad rack and gave all my efforts to the mountain, looking to read all its intricacies and following its paths to the top. Some delightfully easy, some palm sweatingly hard but always i felt small and humbled. Having climbed over 50 routes (summiting 5 times) and just under 60 boulder problems i was the most content i have ever been in my entire life. Surrounded with genuine souls and friends that understand that unsaid motivation.

So, what is it then? That 'unsaid motivation'? Many, many climbers have tried to explain this. Some can, some simply can't.

For me, i want to spend my life trying to describe why. It is such a profound feeling, one cannot simply say it was 'Awesome'. Not only is it physically challenging but the most important aspect of climbing, for me, is the mental and in turn, the spiritual aspect. Climbing is a deep commitment for those who take it seriously, in every sense of the word. On a dangerous route, for example, where a fall could mean broken limbs you must steele your mind and judge the situation to act as safely as you can. To go on, with courage, despite the exposure, because you know you have the strength or down climb (if you can reverse the moves).

On the other hand, true commitment extends far beyond the actual mountain. Every scrap of money made, every penny saved goes towards your ideal. Exposure to the natural elements bestows you with that forgetten respect for the old world, the love for other creatures and critters and unfortunately alarm bells, when our destructive tendencies reveal themselves. (I get the Greenpeace memos)

In our everyday lives, mankind strives to help make our lives easier by any means deemed necessary. But on the mountain it is YOU who must adapt and bring yourself up to its standard. Without risk, there is no adventure. Courage, real courage in the face of your greatest fears is something deeply rooted in my quest to find a persons soulful integrity. Just what are we capable of?

"Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves". The legendary George Mallory said this while he contemplated their teams first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1913 and shows us that past adventurous had the same passion as we do today. To conquer what we thought was impossible. The torch is passed from the elders to the next generation to set a new standard. In this way climbing shows another form of evolution.

On this note i have a fleeting memory of a peaceful autumn afternoon. I'm sitting  in El Cap meadow looking up at the mighty captain, 900m (3,000ft) of sweeping, clean granite trying to imagine what Royal Robbins & Warren Harding must have thought of this unclimbed behemoth. All that unknown territory before them. Truly inspiring, as they wanted to do it! Despite the enormous uncertainty. This is where we see the question as to why come up frequently. At this moment, all i can say is that climbing is not just an exciting past time, it's a profound journey, and every time you go out on adventures, you learn something new. Lessons that can't be taught, only experienced. (e.g, Removing the ego for the best decisions, the bond between you and your partners and your actions have consequences).  The mountains will always be the most noble and wise mentor if you want to listen.

So, after being ensconced with the climbing fraternity and a climbing partner during the fall, events lead to a bitter end and a lonesome dark start to the winter. Alone, where i started 8 months ago, i had to climb my way out of self doubt, anger and bitterness.The self can be your worst enemy at times and your shining armour when you need it most. You are strong and have the tools to save yourself. As long as your honest.

Along with a new friend, we start the rappels off Cascade falls (a classic WI3 ice route) with a stunning back drop of the bow valley and I'm calm. My soul is free again.

Which brings me back to the present. Ive just finished Reinhold Messner's 'All the 14 8'000ers' and am ploughing my way through 'Voices of the Summit'. A collection of famous alpinists thoughts of the progression of this art / sport / way of life. (Another post is needed for this topic). These heroes are truly an inspiration and it baffles me how these people are not national icons. But that is also the appeal, i suppose. It's not for stature, it's for the self. It's from these mentors that i believe completing a journey under your own steam, without bringing the mountain down to your level is surely the purest form of adventure and spiritual illumination possible.

Being recognised and respected among these brave souls would be a huge honour. Time will tell. Its a long and amazing road i don't want to rush.It is through this ideal that i hope to be strong in the mind, honest with my achievements and in what style i do it in.

Alpine climbing in 2012 will bring me one step closer to my ultimate dream, which is materialising on the horizon. But first, i look forward to touching base with family and friends.

Love to you all!

1 comment:

  1. Mate, fantastic read. Good to see you clearly articulate your passions in such an eloquent way. Look forward to seeing you for a proper catch-up in the next few weeks.

    Big Love