/ Routes that leave a hole in your heart.

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
tmawer 09 May 2019

I remember reading an essay in Extreme Rock, the one about Cratcliffe by John Kirk I think, in which he uses the phrase "another dream consumed", about having completed a longed for route. Do others experience something of a sense of loss when they complete a project or longed for climbing ambition, and if so what are your thoughts around this and how do you deal with it....just move on to the next route or reflect a little?

1
Ged Desforges 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I remember doing my hardest ever onsight on pretty much the best, most classic, most amazing line in a really world class area, when I was in the best shape of my life. Afterwards I distinctly remember feeling that if never have another one as good as that.

Then I got drunk. 

Post edited at 08:48
Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I never experienced that. Somehow all the good on-sight leads of routes that I'd had big ambitions on, and had built up to slowly, all left me feeling enriched and gave me memories that have lasted for ever.

tmawer 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I think I have a mix of responses; I definitely have great memories that remain, but I think there is also a tinge of sadness for me that it is now over. There is an enjoyment in the anticipation that is now gone. Perhaps this is something of the human condition, or perhaps it's just me overthinking things!

Deadeye 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

A little bit sometimes. When I did Dream of White Horses it was perfect and I thought, "oh, that's gone now". But I did it again with a different partner in a different day and it was just as good.  And now a third and fourth times. All splendid. I think these routes just become old friends.

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I suppose one could always go and repeat a route. I did that with a few favourites of mine, but really very few. For me the joy of climbing was always to try and climb new routes (I mean routes I'd never done before, and the very, very occasional new route). That way the experience had a continual freshness. Obviously, when in London and going repeatedly to Harrison's and Bowles, it was not so easy to find new routes ... but then High Rocks opened up. In repeating routes, the joy became something different, to see how well I could climb them. Often, embarrassingly, they were quite a lot harder than I remembered ...

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

Further note.  I remember when Joe Brown came to the Peak for one day to feature in a photo for my Peak book. First he repeated Right Unconquerable, and he was so enthusiastic after that that he then suggested that we go Ravensdale (his choice) where he did an HVS he'd never done before. As he got near the top he said 'This is a cracking route!' - he really enjoyed it. Then the next evening he rang me from North Wales to say what a great weekend it had been. He'd just done Crackstone Rib in perfect weather with his grand-daughter leading. And he said that each of the three routes he'd done that weekend was equally good, in completely different ways. He couldn't say which was the best.

tmawer 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I do enjoy repeating routes, and having lived in the same area for a long time do so frequently, and find quite a joy in doing them again with new partners as it's always a different experience. However I think there is something about the build up to a route one has coveted for a long time, and having done the route the loss of the pleasure of the anticipation leaves a bit of a gap.

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

OK, I've got your point, which is a good one, but curiously enough I haven't felt this in climbing. I have felt it, however, in other walks of life. Particularly when writing a book and having it published. There is a very definite feeling then of emptiness, however successful the book might be. The creative process is over ... and one has to move on. I guess it feels a bit like it must do when launching a ship. It goes down the slipway, leaving just a few bits of wood floating in the water (a bit like wastepaper in one's rubbish bin), and it's gone for ever into the big wide world. You have to start a new project, you can't look back.

Post edited at 11:00
Darron 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Cracking story Gordon. It’s a heart warming vision Joe Brown, at the twilight of his climbing years, being led up CR by his granddaughter.

Jon Stewart 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

> However I think there is something about the build up to a route one has coveted for a long time, and having done the route the loss of the pleasure of the anticipation leaves a bit of a gap.

I don't experience things like that at all. With the build up to a route I've coveted for a long time, the sensation is one of anxiety rather than anticipation. And then, if it's been sufficiently built up, I always fall off the route anyway. A good example being Eroica which I had wanted to do for about 10 years. When I went to the crag (a second visit) I was totally psyched out by the place, climbed up to the crux in a state of abject terror and then took a massive lob. I did get back on (no, I didn't lower all the way back to the ground from 35m up to climb a load of HVS again) and I'm glad to have done the route, but the hole that was left was that which would have been filled by success.

There is also a question here of the difference between the experiencing self and the remembering self which reports how things seemed to be, looking back.  I go on about Mastodon being one of my favourite routes, and it is amazing, but that is my remembering self talking. If I really examine the memory and relive how it actually was as I experienced it, I remember the anxiety of the scary wet start, some reasonable climbing, some small holds and fiddly gear, finger jamming and more small gear, and then it being over. What I actually felt at the time was "oh this is it - this is what climbing these routes is like" without any real euphoria or great feeling of achievement, but a really hollow sense that climbing one of my dream routes just isn't actually that much fun. After a few days, once the remembering self had digested the experience, I started to rave on about what a great route it was and how I was so chuffed to have finally done it. But in fact, the experiencing self was distinctly underwhelmed with the whole thing.

Sadly, now I've been climbing for a while and getting steadily worse rather than better, I'm starting to feel like I'm chasing a buzz that I'm never really going to feel again. I used to say that climbing gets better and better the more you do...then I had a trip a few years ago when I knew I was unlikely to climb that well again - which has proven to be true. And now, it feels more and more like I'm on a hiding to nothing when I look through the guidebooks looking for routes or trips to try to regain that feeling I once had. Talk about a hole in the heart.

Toccata 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I'd worked pretty hard at the full Pebble circuit at Stanage on and off over a year. I could do every move with my eyes closed both on the rock and lying in bed. One morning, before work, I went to try Ben's Extension and thought to warm up on the Pebble. The warm up became the full circuit and with seemingly no effort or excitement it was done. In an instant I no longer had moves to run through in those moments where the world inside your head offers more than your eyes and ears bring in. A hole in the heart indeed.

However the next day I went to Raven Tor for the first time and tried Powerband... 

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

The number of routes I was totally gripped on was quite rare ... and horrible. But mostly I remember very extreme exhilaration at the time, and not just in retrospect - typically immediately after succeeding on the crux and knowing the route was 'in the bag'. With me (because I am by nature quite cautious/timid/easily scared) I would go through weeks of getting psyched up for some big famous route that typically represented a slight step forward in difficulty. I would be both very afraid, but totally focussed. Then, as I started to do the first moves, the fear would start to drain away, and I'd typically climb better and better. And, almost invariably, huge exhilaration at the crux. The number of times I fell off leading was extremely small. One quite big one (Kelly's Overhang) and two very, very small ones of about two feet.

GridNorth 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

One of the routes that I had coveted for a long time was Last Slip in the Avon Gorge. It took several weeks before I came down of cloud nine so there was never really a sense of loss.

I had done every route, almost, in the Avon Gorge and most of them several times, apart from Last Slip. It looked and had a reputation for being a bit thin and  "necky" so I kept putting it off. One day after being rained off in Devon my mate and I set off back to Bristol to find glorious sunshine.  Steve later said that on the drive back I went very quiet.  Steve was one of those climbers who was content to second but none the less very competent, a brilliant partner who knew both my strengths and my weaknesses.  He knew what was on my mind.  I got changed in silence.  I geared up in silence. I walked to the bottom of the first pitch in silence.  I climbed the first pitch in silence.  He understood my mood and maintained the silence. It wasn't until he joined me on the stance that I said "are you ready then".  I was apprehensive but not scared.  I felt very focused and in control as I set off up the very sparsely protected wall to the bolt.  It looked a hell of a long way to the next peg. It was a hell of a long way to the next peg but somehow I summoned up the courage to leave the security of the bolt and slowly but surely bridged my way up the groove. Even if I say so myself, I cruised up the groove without hesitation and before I knew it I was reaching for a QD to clip in that very lonely looking distant piece of gear and I knew it was in the bag. Steve said I made it look very easy so he was surprised to find that he couldn't climb it without some tight.  I think it was one of the happiest moments in my very long climbing career and one of the few times I've let out a rather subdued but heartfelt YES. He later said that the day felt a little surreal.

But to bring me back down to earth I have to admit to seconding and/or shunting Last Slip at least another 5 or 6 times since and on EVERY occasion I thought to myself "how the hell did you ever lead that"  It was one of those rare magic days when everything was just right.

Al

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to GridNorth:

A superb description of how I've felt a few times at a slightly lower standard. Vector was one. Another, 'merely' a top-roped climb, was Hate at Bowles. I'd tried it about 4 or 5 times on successive weekends, and suddenly I was floating through the first crux and then romping over the second crux of bulges and overhangs. And when I got to the tree belay at the top and untied, I jumped about and ranted and raved for about three minutes. I remember that just behind the tree there was a low fence and then a cornfield. Anyone seeing this from the other direction would wonder what on earth had got into this maniac leaping about on the edge of a cornfield screaming 'YESSS!!!' at about 150 decibels.

Michael Gordon 09 May 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

That's interesting. I think in a way one's early inexperienced times are the best when everything is new. As you get better you climb harder bigger things but the mind is more used to it and they have less of an effect.

Then again, when I did stuff as a relative beginner there was probably a lot of frustration over poor route choice, lack of ability, and not climbing to my potential so that's perhaps another example of a powerful experience in retrospect but not at the time.  

cb294 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

Not at all, I usually have something else and more ambitious in sight already, so I am free to enjoy success on a project. 

CB

spidermonkey09 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I think the answer to this depends on the nature of the journey to get there. A slight sense of loss can come when the climbing feels easy, bringing with it a feeling of anticlimax compared to the feeling of fighting all the way up something and finding it really hard. I have experienced both on redpoints near my limit and found myself immensely satisfied after both. However, the state of flow and subsequent ease of the climbing experience I felt on one route meant I also had a tinge of anticlimax, whereas on another where I was massively emotionally invested after a long time trying it, the main emotion was relief and joy!

Its a strange irony of redpointing at ones absolute limit that, in order to climb something at that level one may need to tap into a state of flow which makes the climbing feel easy and subsequently engenders a feeling of anticlimax, making it more likely that the climber will try something harder...

profitofdoom 09 May 2019
In reply to GridNorth:

> But to bring me back down to earth I have to admit to seconding and/or shunting Last Slip at least another 5 or 6 times since and on EVERY occasion I thought to myself "how the hell did you ever lead that"....

If it helps I think Last Slip (E3 5c) is absolutely desperate, the description says "memorable climb", HAH, it's horrendous just getting established in the groove on pitch 2 - too much for me - then at least to me it gets if anything worse

GridNorth 09 May 2019
In reply to profitofdoom:

When I did it, it was graded E4 so I was at the absolute limit of my abilities at least psychologically. I noticed much later that someone had managed to excavate a placement for a small micro wire under the roof above the bolt which perhaps explains the downgrading.

Michael Gordon 09 May 2019
In reply to spidermonkey09:

I think this emptiness is really only from a route you've invested a lot of time in, i.e. redpoints or headpoints. For onsights of a long coveted route, for me the feeling is inevitably either anti-climax, slight satisfaction or great satisfaction depending on how hard the route has been in reality. 

wbo 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:. I have the problem that if something such as a route is a really intense experience I am so concentrated I can barely remember anything afterwards.

Less intense and I can remember individual moves 30 years later

Gordon Stainforth 09 May 2019
In reply to wbo:

Strange. I can remember the Ochre Slab on Vector with an almost photographic memory, move by move, and that was 36 years ago. Ditto, Debauchery, and that was 24 years ago. Both were really intense for me. There are dozens of others too, but they really stand out for me. Even the top of Cenotaph, nearly 50 years ago, is still near-photographic.

Post edited at 17:40
wbo 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth : I think I'm a little jealous some moves I can remember everything, how the rock felt and so on, but too many and it's very vague. 

I also find that when I finish a project or particularly desired route I'm not satisfied for very long at all

Rick51 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I've used going through the Ochre Slab sequence at the dentist for the last 48 years as a defence mechanism.

As for climbs that leave a hole in your heart - the Boldest. It was always a route that I thought I would never lead. I lead it and alt leads on Great Wall on the same day and although I found it ok felt that was it, I'd done it and I hardly climbed again. Just started again after 35 years out.

pasbury 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

What a great thread, Gordon’s contributions are pure gold. Gridnorth -beautiful story.

I’m kind of an ex-climber but can’t recall ever having been disappointed at consuming a dream. I was always just a punter and sometimes surprised myself at doing something that I thought was going to be hard.

Very thought provoking!

Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

For me it has always been the opposite feeling, a yearning void waiting to be filled with memories of the routes that I dreamt about for years - once finally done, a feeling of peace and satisfaction replaced the void,

Chris

aln 09 May 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Nicely put Gordon, I feel the same.

pasbury 09 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

My MO was always to sneak up on routes. Through a fog of general mediocrity I would have the occasional moment of inspiration, driven by excellent partners, good conditions, random inspiration or routes that suited me.

I did catch out a few good routes with these techniques and they live with me still.

I retain the hope that I may catch a few out yet.

In reply to spidermonkey09:

> Its a strange irony of redpointing at ones absolute limit that, in order to climb something at that level one may need to tap into a state of flow which makes the climbing feel easy and subsequently engenders a feeling of anticlimax, making it more likely that the climber will try something harder...

To me, red-pointing is all about the process; the eventual ascents of many of my projects have felt incredibly intense; periods of grace and feeling like a perfect machine designed for climbing, then suddenly battling against slips, short-roping, quick-draws spinning in gale-force winds;.  Euphoria but mainly relief on clipping the chains.; although, oh so brief.... an anti-climax compared to the journey to get there.  Joyous shouting for 10 seconds, then "What now? I guess I'll start working that route 3 meters to the left".  I am often reminded of being in the pub after my last exam at university; I am expected to be celebrating wildly but feel a bit empty "So, a few weeks of tests and I am meant to draw a line under the most formative 3 years of my life.  Do I have to become an adult now? Dear careers tutor, when I grow-up I want to be a child".

Duncan Bourne 10 May 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

I always thought I would do Dream but as age leaves its mark the motivation has drained away.

deacondeacon 10 May 2019
In reply to pasbury:

> My MO was always to sneak up on routes. Through a fog of general mediocrity I would have the occasional moment of inspiration, driven by excellent partners, good conditions, random inspiration or routes that suited me.

> I did catch out a few good routes with these techniques and they live with me still.

> I retain the hope that I may catch a few out yet.

That is a perfect description of climbing in general I think. Lots of average (although enjoyable) experiences with the odd moment of glory.

Mine is without a doubt Right Wall. One of those days where I wasn't scared, got stuck in and found myself topping out. In my head it felt about HVS but pretty sure for anyone watching I was gibbering up it like a baby. 

Went walking in Langdale last weekend and sneaked off to solo a diff. Such a good route and I can't stop thinking about it. Those glory days definitely aren't all about the grade. 

snoop6060 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

I remember looking at some sort of picture of the grand wall in Squamish when I first started climbing thinking wtf, that looks absolutely mentle. 

I also vividly remember flying through the air having just lost the battle with the awkward boulder problem at the top of the sword on it! 

It's a pattern I've repeated many times over the years. If climbing has taught me something it's that if I really really really want to do a route I'm gonna fall off it. 

I just climb at stoney now. 

Post edited at 08:25
Deadeye 10 May 2019
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

If I tell you it's only VS will that buy you a bit more time?

Deadeye 10 May 2019
In reply to pasbury:

Yes, this.

I'm a Vs climber that once led Chalkstorm because I was in love!

Post edited at 08:48
Duncan Bourne 10 May 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

it is less to do with the grade and more to do with picking routes that allow for rests. Take this past two weeks I half dyno for one hold and now I have a strained cartlidge to recouperate from. Arthritis in the fingers (mild at present) and a dodgy left knee means i tend to tackle climbs with a lot more consideration of their impact on my body

misterb 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

My emotional response to doing a longed for route differs wildly between trad,sport and bouldering due to the different pressures i put on myself to perform on each route and as such the  

The onsight ethic of trad means i very rarely remember much about a trad route other than the feeling of general satisfaction or elation at the top and a few memorable moves maybe if it was close to my limit.I don't really repeat trad routes very often so wouldn't feel a sense of loss , just happiness in the knowledge that at some point in my life i have led that route

Sport is slightly different as I've never worked myself up into frenzy to onsight an individual sport route so don't experience loss when i don't , other than that fleeting moment when sat on the rope looking at the jug you just peeled off three foot below the chains. Remarkably my ego is now such that i can let the failures go 

Redpointing is a different matter as i have invested significant amounts of time in individual routes, at times they have become best friends and worst enemies. knowing every ripple of the rock and having the nuances of every move burnt into your memory definitely leaves more of a sense of loss after you eventually lead them, particularly a few hours after the send when you do have a time of reflection. However, in my mind these routes are often a stepping stone to the next level so that sentiment fades quickly

Bouldering for me is the one where problems can leave a sense of regret or sorrow even. This is mainly because i only really boulder at or above my limit so i have quite a lot of unfinished projects ,sometimes just due to bad luck or conditions but mostly due to not being able to do an individual move quite right which gnaws away at me. That feeling of being so close yet so far away seems to provide me with the most frustration as my bouldering career is more like "the ten that got away" than the classic "one that got away " The boulder projects i have done have been immensely satisfying and i think i have only ever felt joy not loss at the completion of a project.

To answer the question directly rather than all the waffle above , If i was to pick a route or routes that have left a hole in my heart it would be the ones i have looked and dreamed about  yet known i will never be strong or good enough to actually pull on to them. This could also just be a reflection of my own underlying sadness at not being as good/strong/brave as i would like to be however there are some cracking lines out there i know i have no chance on

tmawer 10 May 2019
In reply to misterb:

Really interesting and much that resonates. Thanks. 

harold walmsley 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

There is an odd mix for me. When I work at a sport route I usually overdo it so the redpoint is rarely at my limit and the lead seems like an anticlimax. I often then think it would have been a better experience if I had worked it a bit less. Occasionally I get it right and am pleased with myself. If I onsight a route, whether sport or trad, that I expect to find hard it becomes a cherished memory rather than a dream consumed. For onsights it is the failures on long-desired targets that give the regrets and sense of loss. Paradoxically , however, I don't have long-desired targets any more so I guess in a sense you could look on the ones I have managed as dreams consumed. However I don't look at it this way. I think because I recognise that they would no longer be targets even if I hadn't done them. Better to consume the dreams while you can than let them fade into regret? 

LeeWood 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

It could depend which side of 40 you are. Having climbed a route of character and reputation, close to your limits - it will always be a pleasure and challenge  to repeat - after your zenith. But if you are moving up the grades it may seem to be old hat.

1
peppermill 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

 Nothing like as impressive as some of the mentioned routes on here but 'Long Tall Sally' at Burbage North. I was a student in Sheffield at the time, only been climbing properly (leading) for about 18 months. I'd seen several friends I knew to be much more talented/ experienced climbers than me either lead it but have a bit of a battle, or fail completely.

I went up with a friend on a windy mid week day and we'd been climbing other routes up to about HVS. We stopped for lunch at the base of LTS. I had a look, felt great and it looked pretty safe so after lunch I gave it a bash. I absolutely cruised it. 

It was my first E1, something I'd coveted for a while, so there was a definite emptiness that it had 'Gone' but the overwhelming feeling was of surprise at just how easy I'd found it, I'd expected a big battle and briefed my belayer for a fall at the crux. It was so bizarre.

Gordon Stainforth 10 May 2019
In reply to peppermill:

Sure, something had 'gone', but surely it was the opening up of a huge new door for you? There are just so many E1s that are no harder technically than LTS, and some quite a bit easier.

Andy Peak 1 10 May 2019
In reply to tmawer:

Millstone Edge

[climb(10789,"Monopoly")

For me this was going to be my first foray into E7, I’d spent a few days over a year climbing the route on top rope to try and get it perfect, I’d balanced a few skyhooks together with a bit of 6mm cord in preparation for the lead. I organised a belayer and a day to go out,I was ready!

The day came and it was really windy 40/50mph rather than risk climbing it in those winds I bottled it and placed side runners in the cracks of Bond st and Grate Portland st which made me feel a little empty but it was all I had to offer that day.

The climbing went easily as it always did despite the wind.

After that I lost a bit of love for the route, Id emotionally invested in it and gone to do it but failed to do it in the way I wanted. 

Its still there waiting!

Never invest your emotions in a piece of rock it Cares not wether you climb it enjoy the day! 

Post edited at 13:00
In reply to Ged Desforges:

This was definitely point blank! 

Sean Kelly 09 Jun 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> OK, I've got your point, which is a good one, but curiously enough I haven't felt this in climbing. I have felt it, however, in other walks of life. Particularly when writing a book and having it published. There is a very definite feeling then of emptiness, however successful the book might be. The creative process is over ... and one has to move on. I guess it feels a bit like it must do when launching a ship. It goes down the slipway, leaving just a few bits of wood floating in the water (a bit like wastepaper in one's rubbish bin), and it's gone for ever into the big wide world. You have to start a new project, you can't look back.

It is certainly like that with painting. The greatest hurdle for the artist to overcome is that blank canvas. As I approached the conclusion of a piece of work I began to hate saying it was finished.

Likewise now with a book. I really think it is done, but then I return to it and more ideas begin to flow. Or else I rewrite some passage of delete a chapter. I must be close to finishing now... but then again..

Ged Desforges 09 Jun 2019
In reply to Russell Blackaller:

Wrong!


This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.