/ Cathartic dreams of undone routes

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pneame 07 Nov 2019

Dreams are supposed to be a way of clearing the crud out of your brain.

I've just finished reading "Troll Wall" by Tony Howard describing the original ascent of the eponymous route (quite gripping!) as well as other things. One of the other things is an ascent of the East pillar of Sondre Trolltind (or Semletind as he calls it...). In 1972 I and a chap called Mick Green decided to give it a go - it's 6000 ft of mostly straightforward climbing (we thought) with an easy descent down the backside. We were duly dropped near the bottom and proceeded to gear up. Oh - we only have one 150 ft 9mm rope (this, as I recall, was my fault). Nevertheless we set off with day sacs (!) simulclimbing up the first couple of hundred feet. Knowing the sting was in the tail I was getting increasingly concerned about the lack of retreat options if we ran into trouble higher up. 4000+ ft of 75 ft rappels didn't bear thinking about. After a bit, we decided that to continue would be foolhardy and went back. I suspect that we were biting off more than we could chew and that the missing rope was my subconscious way of stopping us. 

Last night, in a dream, I was there again, climbing these exfoliating 60 degree slabs with no protection or decent belays. It might have been possible to use skyhooks or their ilk, but we didn't have any. We were about 2 rope lengths up, no chance of retreat the way we had come up (no anchors) and hideous steep and chossy gullies to our right and left. For some reason, we had to retreat but couldn't....

Then I woke up. Reading Tony's book, it was rather clear that we would likely have run into considerable difficulties if we had carried on in 1972 - no bivvy gear and not enough food or water (shades of Gordon Stainforth's "Fiva"). Hopefully my brain has now put that bit of youthful folly to rest. 

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McHeath 07 Nov 2019
In reply to pneame:

Great post. It's amazing that experiences like this still surface in dreams after nearly 50 years; I suppose that their intensity is the reason we get hooked for life. 

Your story reminds me of a plan my friend and I had in the Seventies when we were about 17; we'd just done our first grit Severes using the short cable laid nylon rope and slings with which my uncle had climbed in the Cuillin in the 50s, and read one of the first articles about the Verdon to appear in the British press. We immediately planned a trip, which (with hindsight) thankfully never came to fruition.

I've had loads of nasty situations and narrow escapes while climbing, but can't remember ever having dreamt of them. My good dreams have been of swinging up on glorious layback flakes, way above protection and feeling like a god; the much more common bad dreams are of sitting as a passenger in a bus (sometimes driven by my father, LMAO ... ), careening wildly out of control down alpine serpentines and only just making each curve. A psychologist would have a field day with them, and he'd be right! 

Thanks for your post!

PS I presume you know Ed Ward-Drummond's account of his experience on the Troll Wall? It's the first essay in "The Games Climbers Play".

Post edited at 21:51
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pneame 07 Nov 2019
In reply to McHeath:

I haven't dipped into Games Climbers Play for decades! I clearly need to re-read it. I know exactly where my copy is for when I get home. I think.

I never have good dreams about climbing for some reason; there's always some strange exasperation. Nothing too bad but usually a bit odd and frustrating. My waking thoughts, on the other hand - all good. Even the "lucky to have survived that!" ones. 

Traumatic bus rides.... very interesting....

I went through a long period of missing planes in various strange and convoluted ways....

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pneame 11 Nov 2019
In reply to McHeath:

> PS I presume you know Ed Ward-Drummond's account of his experience on the Troll Wall? It's the first essay in "The Games Climbers Play".

Just read "Mirror Mirror" for the second time after 40+ years. Good grief, what an epic. 

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