/ When soloing becomes a dangerous drug.

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Goucho on 08 Oct 2017
I remember reading Perrin's article on soloing Coronation Street under the influence of drugs during a bad time in his life - can't remember if it was cocaine or speed - and at the end thinking, what a prick.

Several years later, in the middle of a horrendous divorce, failing business and on the verge of losing everything, my recreational drinking had gone to a darker place, and my casual partaking of the odd spliff had moved onto a less casual use of a more serious substance.

Several friends quite rightly shunned the 'prick' I had become, whilst other's, showing a level of loyalty neither deserved nor appreciated at the time, still tried to stand by me.

Despite my life being in a self inflicted out of control tailspin, I carried on climbing.

Suddenly sobering up, barely in control two thirds of the way up Rat Race while soloing, should have been the wake up call, but it wasn't.

The worse my life became, the more pathetically self indulgent I became, and the more I drank - reaching two bottles of Jack Daniels a day - and the more poison I shoved up my nose.

I sought out solitude and withdrew to the edges of a yawning black hole. Yet this existence in my own Event Horizon, fuelled by booze drugs and nialism, gave a perverse feeling of comfort. As long as I stayed there, out of reach, in a place no one wanted to follow, I felt safe.

With the chemical crutches providing anaesthesia, I was released from the normal constraints of rationale and risk assessment.

My soloing became my third drug, an addictive walk along a fine line, perilously close to being unhinged, yet at the same time, intensely cathartic.

In a wonderful piece of irony, it became the only time I felt life was worth living.

I spent about six months in this strange half life, between the decaying corpse of my real life, and the climbing equivalent of russian roulette.

Seeking out more serious routes in more remote places, I pursued my exile from normality. From the outside, it must have looked like a death wish, yet from the inside it was the only thing keeping me from a final pathetic hand scrawled note, next to an empty bottle of pills.

I won't dwell on the finer details, but during this period there were a number of close calls, emotional breakdowns and behaviour which could well have been clinically described as insanity.

Yet the intensity of these experiences were both palpable and arrousing. A hair trigger constantly twitching against my frontal lobes, alternating between vivid detail, and abstract randomness.

Of course it couldn't go on indefinitely, and finally came to a head, not on the wet crux of a lonely route, but on the wet bend of a lonley Welsh road in the early hours of another desperate morning.

During the three weeks that followed in hospital, I received not only wonderful treatment for my physical injuries, but more importantly, the start of the treatment for where the real damage was - in my head.





10
Greenbanks - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Powerful and personal.
Thank you very much for sharing it.
2
Greenbanks - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to Greenbanks:
It takes all sorts I suppose, and I accept that. But I wonder what lies behind the couple of 'Dislikes' for such a heartfelt rendition of somebody's state(s) of mind in relation to climbing, as described in the OP? Not flaming the contrary viewpoint, just trying to understand it.
Thanks
Post edited at 22:54
Michael Hood - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Sounds like you were lucky to get out of that period of your life alive.
birdie num num - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I went through exactly the same agony, but top-roping
3
dilatory - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to Greenbanks:
Not my options personally as have been close to becoming the narrator of a similar tale myself (minus the soloing) but there are often sadly more victims than just the author in these tales. There's sometimes an innocent person on the same bend...

Still, thanks for sharing op and I hope someone can recognise similar behaviour and help someone else (or themselves).
Post edited at 23:45
AP Melbourne on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

That's a very moving piece there Goucho, well done for sharing it. As for the sad losers who gave the dislikes - well bully for them.
I hope things are more settled for you these days.
Kindest regards,
Andy P.
3
Michael Gordon - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Greenbanks:

> It takes all sorts I suppose, and I accept that. But I wonder what lies behind the couple of 'Dislikes' for such a heartfelt rendition of somebody's state(s) of mind in relation to climbing, as described in the OP? Not flaming the contrary viewpoint, just trying to understand it.
>

The only thing I can think of is it might have come across as self indulgent. Don't flame me for that though; I haven't clicked on any likes/dislikes on this thread.
profitofdoom on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Very moving and honest Goucho thanks for writing. I bet it helps some people
Calvi - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I've been through a very similar experience, I too was lucky.
Wil Treasure - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Greenbanks:

> But I wonder what lies behind the couple of 'Dislikes' ...

I guess when you like/dislike something it isn't clear whether you are liking the post itself, or the experience it comes from. If you like the post but despair that anyone should have to go through this which do you click?
profitofdoom on 09 Oct 2017
In reply:

Many years ago one of the Avon regulars was going through a very bad patch with a relationship. One morning at the gorge he announced he was going to solo Lich Gates* and didn't care if he died on it or not. He then suddenly set off (I wasn't there but others I know witnessed this). Reportedly everyone's heart was in their mouths watching him climb it and reach the top up the difficult top groove. He had no rope with him of course

*Then HVS with 2 pegs for aid
BrendanO - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Well, I gave you a like, cos I'm often easily moved by guys talking about their darkness; too many of them don't or can't, and the results speak for themselves ("Sonny" by the Rubber Bandits comes to mind).

Good on you for putting it out there. And it's ptobably not what you were thinking, but this extended and edited a bit would make a great article. Others would know better than me where to aim that.

It's only speculation, but the dislikes? Well, if my partner had been killed by a drunk driver on a rainy morning, my sympathy might not be with you.

Anyway, it's the past. Well-done again for your open heart, especially in this sometimes cruel place.
Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to dilatory:

> Not my options personally as have been close to becoming the narrator of a similar tale myself (minus the soloing) but there are often sadly more victims than just the author in these tales. There's sometimes an innocent person on the same bend...

Absolutely, and further proof of how far up my own rear end I had disappeared.

I actually crashed through a wall into a farmers field, but wasn't wearing a seat belt so got quite bashed up.


Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Sounds like you were lucky to get out of that period of your life alive.

Yes I was, primarily down to a dear friend - who later became my lifelong business partner - and paid to get me treated for my drug and alcohol addictions.
Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to AP Melbourne:

> That's a very moving piece there Goucho, well done for sharing it. As for the sad losers who gave the dislikes - well bully for them.

> I hope things are more settled for you these days.

> Kindest regards,

> Andy P.

Thanks Andy.

My life has been good for a long long time now, and as I tried to point out (probably a bit ham fisted) in the OP, it was all my own fault for being a prize jerk and prick.

As for the dislikes, I fully understand them, and actually expected a lot more. Something like this will always polorise opinions.

I've got a dear friend who's been going through a dark time for a few years now, and trying to help him is a constant struggle - especially in recent weeks - and it bought back to the surface my own dark period, where I too made it almost impossible for anyone to help me, and only extreme circumstances finally pulled me back from the edge.

Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> The only thing I can think of is it might have come across as self indulgent. Don't flame me for that though; I haven't clicked on any likes/dislikes on this thread.

A perfectly valid observation Michael, though it wasn't intended to do so.
SteveSBlake - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

It's very reflective and open of you, .... Thankfully I've never been through anything like that. Have you thought about a more formal output for your writing. I suspect there's yet more tales to tell and the audience on here is a bit limited. In a number of ways ;-).

Steve



Andy Hardy on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

"Like" seems a bit feeble, but have #105 anyways.
Timmd on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

> Yes I was, primarily down to a dear friend - who later became my lifelong business partner - and paid to get me treated for my drug and alcohol addictions.

The best kind of friend.
pasbury on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Three thoughts:

You should write a book.

You're so lucky to still be around.

It might not be so dramatic as the outward leg but it would be good to read about the journey back.
Footloose - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I know exactly what you're saying, and I've been there too, in a less extreme way. Sometimes it's only when you stare death in the face that you can appreciate life. And when you're as low as you can possibly get, sometimes all it takes is something as small as a genuine smile from a complete stranger to restore your sense of equilibrium after all.
Kemics - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Thanks for sharing, a very interesting piece into your state of mind at the time.

Looking back do you think anyone could have said or done anything to get through to you? Was it a case that you had to have the crash or a major event to make the changes? Or was it just that it facilitated you getting in contact with the right services?

neilh - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:
That chimney pitch on Rat Race is a good place to sober up on. Even when sober with a rope it's still pretty exciting!
Post edited at 14:42
Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Kemics:
> Thanks for sharing, a very interesting piece into your state of mind at the time.

> Looking back do you think anyone could have said or done anything to get through to you? Was it a case that you had to have the crash or a major event to make the changes? Or was it just that it facilitated you getting in contact with the right services?

The thing about both booze and drug addiction, which those who've experienced it will understand, and those who haven't will probably struggle too, is that in the early days, it's really bloody enjoyable.

Both go straight to the pleasure centres of the brain, and in the case of coke, it supercharges the senses in an incredibly powerful way.

I have no doubt, that even though I would have been in a bad place during that period of my life, it was the booze and drugs which accelerated and twisted my mental decline and pushed me into that self destructive behaviour.

And of course, like all addictions, you are in complete denial that you actually have a problem, and your response to anyone who tries to point out you do have a problem, is to tell them to f*ck off.

So you start to gradually isolate yourself, until the only friends you have, are the booze and the drugs, which become a lethal comfort blanket.

You also get into a routine.

Three large glasses of Jack Daniels for breakfast, followed by a strong black coffee, followed by a couple of lines of coke, followed by a spliff to take some of the edge off the manic effects of the coke.

And because the brain is a pretty sophisticated thing, you create ever more plausible excuses for being in denial that you've got a problem.

By the time you start running out of those excuses, you're so far down the darkness of the rabbit hole, that all you can think of (with apologies to Al Alverez) is feeding the rat.

The reason the car crash was the wake up call - it could, and in fact should have been a fall - was that underneath all the swagger and bravado, I'm basically a coward, and frightened of dying.

My hospital stay removed the access to the booze and drugs, and forced me to realise what a completely pathetic prick I'd been.
Post edited at 14:53
Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to pasbury:

> Three thoughts:

> You should write a book.

> You're so lucky to still be around.

> It might not be so dramatic as the outward leg but it would be good to read about the journey back.

My friend paid for me to spend six weeks in The Priory, which did wonders, as you're with other people who know exactly what you're going through.

After that, a business opportunity arose, so I threw myself into that, and gradually pulled my life back together. The rest as they say, is history.

However, funnily enough, I didn't climb again for at least a year, and when I did start getting out again, it was very tentatively and cautious for quite a while.
Timmd on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:
> My hospital stay removed the access to the booze and drugs, and forced me to realise what a completely pathetic prick I'd been.

Or how human you are?

I kinda get where you're coming from in being harsh on yourself though, from having to take responsibility for my cannabis habit which caused a lot of problems for myself, and for my family too. The future has contained countless ways of starting afresh though, which is nice.
Post edited at 15:16
1
eroica64 - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

What a monster kind of dick you became and climbing (soloing) held it together until the hospital time. Must have been bloody hard to write and publish. Congrats and lots of respect for doing it.
3
Stuart en Écosse - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Great piece, as ever, and as others have said chapeau for the courage to share and be honest about things most of us don't even have a language for let alone have the confidence to express it.

I get some of what you said, I never did the substance addiction though I did go through a drink sodden, "must party hard all the time" phase when I was in a bad place, and most of the rock solos I've done were for what could be described as the wrong reasons; trying to distill my perception of life and to feel like it was something I wanted and appreciated, and ridding myself of the "don't care if I fall off and die" feeling.
fmck - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

About a month ago we were at a friends house for a curry with a number of other families and their kids. As the route home involved crossing a unlit forrested gorge we were going to sleep over. I didn't fancy it and took my head torch to get home to my bed. I had some cans of beer but my mate was a member of some wine club and kept dishing out glasses of the red stuff constantly topping up everyone's glasses. At one point going to the bog I realised I was getting a bit gassed and decided if I was going home it best be now. I said my goodbyes and stuck the head torch on and headed off. I followed the path down into the dark forrest to a point the path does a loop round and down to a small foot bridge. Rather than follow this I took a short cut straight down the embankment to the foot bridge. As it was quite steep I built up a bit of speed until I reached the bridge and at the last moment realised the handrail was on my left but nothing to my right. Realising my mistake I grabbed the handrail but due to my momentum and being quite pissed I got spun around and landed backwards down into the blackness of the river below. It wasn't deep only knee deep but luckily my head didn't hit the boulders sticking out but went under the deepest part. I jumped up in total shock at suddenly being totally submerged but my head torch was now washed away and I was in total blackness. I searched for the side and could feel a concrete wall about neck height.I couldn't make the mantel due to water drag so felt the wall on blind mode until I found a small edge to push off. Once out I walked home along the road totally water logged in disbelief a simple walk home had nearly cost me my life.
It did make me revisit a number of incidents in my life that were very close and realise how lucky I have been. I've had worse but this one got me to think about all the previous ones for some reason maybe because it was out the blue simply walking home.
johncook - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Been there. Possibly the best post on here. Hope things stay goo for you. Like you i have friends who have stayed with me.
I am now crying for you keep being positive and enjoy your life inside a set of safer 'rules' . best wishes!
johncook - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

You are brave to open up. A few of us had been there and lack the courage and humility to be open.
Write a book about it. I need the first copy, signed.
Michael Gordon - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to fmck:

> I searched for the side and could feel a concrete wall about neck height. I couldn't make the mantel due to water drag so felt the wall on blind mode until I found a small edge to push off.
>

The usefulness of climbing!

Mick Ward - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to johncook:

Totally agree with both your posts. I suspect there are a fair few of us who have been in similarly sad and terrible places in our lives and have resorted to coping mechanisms which just made things worse.

Very brave of Goucho to go public. I'd never have dared to do so.

An extraordinarily thought-provoking confession. It's made me look very hard indeed at myself. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Mick





Greenbanks - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> An extraordinarily thought-provoking confession. It's made me look very hard indeed at myself. I'm sure I'm not the only one.<

As evidenced by the huge numbers of people 'liking' the OP. I suspect that this approval was expressed because the post touched a psychological/emotional nerve for a lot of people; others will have admired the courage it undoubtedly took to write this stuff for a public (and often critical) audience. Above else I think that the account, raw and brutally honest, connected readers to the fine lines that are sometimes drawn in life and in clmbing.

I found myself staring at a bit of me from time to time as I read the words.

Goucho on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to johncook:

> Been there. Possibly the best post on here. Hope things stay goo for you. Like you i have friends who have stayed with me.

> I am now crying for you keep being positive and enjoy your life inside a set of safer 'rules' . best wishes!

Thanks John.

My life has been in a very good place for many years now, with a wonderful wife, great kids (all now grown adults and chasing their own dreams) good friends, financial security and of course, still the climbing.

The biggest thing I took out of this period (and of course, there are always scars) is that it's very easy to take a bad time, and then make it even worse, by isolating yourself and looking for distractions to avoid dealing with the demons and the mess.

I have a much more pragmatic approach to life now

profitofdoom on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to johncook:

> You are brave to open up. A few of us had been there and lack the courage and humility to be open.

> Write a book about it. I need the first copy, signed.

Excellent post John
BusyLizzie on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

An extremely moving and thought-provoking piece. In this as in other threads on here you speak straight from the heart. Thank you!!

I am so, so glad that you found a way home.
Goucho on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Thanks for all the generous comments, and completely unexpected number of 'likes'.

Although I'm certainly no authority, if anyone out there is going through their own dark times, and simply wants an understanding ear, then I can be contacted on email via UKC.

Needless to say, in complete confidence and discretion.

G.
Mick Ward - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to BusyLizzie:

> An extremely moving and thought-provoking piece. In this as in other threads on here you speak straight from the heart. Thank you!!

> I am so, so glad that you found a way home.


Addiction and Climbing


While thankfully Goucho has found a way home, there may be others out there who are struggling. Certainly for me the original post has stirred up so much emotion that I can’t even begin to think straight. So what follows may not make a great deal of sense. But the very fact that I don’t want to think about it is telling me that I should think about it.

Where to begin? Somewhere. Anywhere. A couple of decades ago I was interviewing a well-known climbing writer. (It wasn’t Jim Perrin who gets blamed for most things!) As we were sitting chatting, his wife came in. X genially said, “This is Mick. He’s a climber.” At the mention of the ‘c’ word, momentarily contempt flashed in her eyes. It was in no way personal and I took no offence. When X said ‘climber’, for her he might as well have said ‘addict’. I’m guessing that, even twenty years ago, she’d met her unfair share of people who’d lost careers, relationships and lives to climbing. For her, no matter what else you’d done in life, being a climber meant one thing: you were an addict. Was she right or was she wrong?

Let’s go back a few more decades. Somewhere between the ages of five and eight, periodically I would be in a situation where I experienced real fear. (It wasn’t fear of sexual abuse – it was much more prosaic.) My safety was literally in someone else’s hands. I developed frissons of excitement, yearned for the experience to be repeated. It was edgy, scary. I loved it.

Around the end of this period, I met some hardcore cavers in the west of Ireland. I could sense the difference between them and others. Again there was the frisson of excitement. When I discovered mountains at thirteen, that frisson went into overdrive.

Dougal Haston’s climbing novel was entitled ‘Calculated Risk’. We’re climbers and mountaineers – calculated risk is what we engage in. Why do we do it? For me, there was always the frisson. In the celebrated words of Karl Wallenda, ‘Life is on the wire, the rest is just waiting.’ Alternatively, in the beautiful lyrics of Ruby Tuesday, ‘She just can’t be chained/to a life where nothing’s gained/and nothing’s lost/at such a cost.’

When we engage in calculated risk, we feel energised. We feel more alive. Winning can taste like the nectar of the gods.

But what about uncalculated risk? Hastons’s hero deliberately risked death by avalanche and survived. When Haston did likewise, sadly he died.

I think there’s a fundamental difference between risk where our actions have a high probability of determining the outcome and risk where our actions have a negligible probability of determining the outcome. The former is akin to the behaviour of a professional gambler, weighing the odds ever so carefully, making skilful moves. The latter is akin to what Mario Puzo termed ‘degenerate gambling’. You go on and on until you lose.

Why did Haston take such an uncalculated risk? My guess is that for him success would have been an affirmation what everything was fine, he was still a world-class mountaineer. (Please note: this is pure speculation and, whether correct or incorrect, implies absolutely no disrespect to Haston.)

Someone (I think Royal Robbins) once said that in climbing the Pathetic Fallacy is to think that because we succeed on a particular route the rest of our life is fine. Certainly while success may give us psychological strength, the rest of our life is… the rest of our life. Problems (for instance in relationships) will still be there. Often, due to the time and effort expended on climbing success, those problems will have intensified.

Jim Bridwell remarked that there’s a fine line between badass and dumb. Boy was he ever right! The problem with that fine line is that it’s most easily discerned with hindsight. As beginners, we wander over it all the time. But if we invoke Robbins’ Pathetic Fallacy, even as mature climbers, we can go over that line again and again. Every time we ‘win’ it’s telling us that all is fine. And it’s a monster adrenaline rush. We feel crazily alive. But really what we’re doing is anaesthetising ourselves to our wider lives and getting inexorably closer to our last day.

My feeling is that calculated risk is acceptable but the Pathetic Fallacy is a killer. Telling the difference sounds simple. When your life is awry, it can be very far from simple. Always, always, always when engaging in the risk business the best chance of survival is to trust your intuition and caustically honestly ask yourself: should I be doing this? (If you’re already on stimulants, your intuition will be nobbled and the answer is ‘no’ anyway.) If you get a bad feeling (literally) in your gut, walk away – if you still can.

I’ll stop in a moment, have probably said far too much already. But many of us will go through bad times in our lives and climbing can be a lethal additive to the cocktail of emotions. Some of us will simply have to live one day at a time – always. No guarantees. Three things I check every day of my life are my emotional state, my alcohol consumption and my degree of social isolation. The latter can be critical – especially for men. Males of my generation were brought up to ‘be men’, to deal with emotional stuff on their own. What utter bollox! As a crude generalisation, women cry with their mates; men cry alone. Cry alone and you’ll cry a whole lot harder and a whole lot longer. Put your hand up. Get help – just as Goucho did. Those who love you will thank you for it.

Mick




Mick Ward - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

My apologies - I spent so much time mulling over my post, I didn't realise it had been somewhat superseded by yours'!

That's a very generous offer and I'm sure people will appreciate it.

Thanks again for bringing up a very difficult subject which clearly resonates deeply with so many of us.

Mick
johncook - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Trying to explain life is a complete bastard.
Goucho and you have do e an exellent job
My invariable thanks to both of you!
If only the whole of life could be filled with understanding people.
John2 - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Sorry Mick, you do not understand the meaning of the phrase 'pathetic fallacy'. It was coined by John Ruskin - perhaps it's easiest to quote from Wikipedia -

'In his essay, Ruskin demonstrates his original meaning by offering lines of a poem: They rowed her in across the rolling foam— The cruel, crawling foam...

Ruskin then points out that "the foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason is unhinged by grief"—yet, Ruskin did not disapprove of this use of the pathetic fallacy:'

A common instance of the pathetic fallacy is when a poet says something such as, 'The mountains glower'. Mountains never glower, and to claim that they do is to attribute the sensibilities of humans to them. The pathetic merely points out that inanimate objects are not imbued with human feeling.
Michael Gordon - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Very thought-provoking post.

Re Haston, my take is he knew the risk was great but decided to ignore it. There could have been an element of self delusion which often seems to be involved in avalanche incidents - "I've always been fine in the past" - or perhaps the classic case of thinking that it won't happen to you because you're stronger than others, despite the evidence which is that things can and do happen to anyone.
Michael Gordon - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to John2:
Do you know why it is called that? I can't find anything explaining the reasoning for the name of the term.

Mick's notion (which he attributes to Robbins) is definitely a real fallacy (sorry!) but perhaps has a different term. I guess 'the fallacy of achievement' or something might cover it OK.
Post edited at 19:44
Goucho on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> My apologies - I spent so much time mulling over my post, I didn't realise it had been somewhat superseded by yours'!

> That's a very generous offer and I'm sure people will appreciate it.

> Thanks again for bringing up a very difficult subject which clearly resonates deeply with so many of us.

> Mick

I've always found one of the great ironies of being a climber, Mick, is that we share such intense experiences with each other, happily put our lives, literally, in each others hands, and pull ourselves through extreme physical and psycological hardships together, yet how often do we really, if ever, open up and confide in each other about issues we are struggling with?

Is it the need to maintain a tough guy image, or is it the need to keep our climbing lives separate from our 'non climbing' lives in order to preserve it's escapism and cathartic properties?

Or is it that men, are just predisposed and societely pre-programmed to keep it bottled up?

The ever increasing numbers of suicides amongst young men, stands as testimony to how isolating and dangerous this mindset is.
John2 - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Pathos is the Greek word for suffering, or experience. The pathetic fallacy is the illusion that objects which are incapable of experiencing emotions do in fact experience them,.
Michael Gordon - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to John2:

Thanks. It's confusing how the modern English meaning seems to bear little relation, but then that's quite common with word usage.
Michael Gordon - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

> I've always found one of the great ironies of being a climber, Mick, is that we share such intense experiences with each other, happily put our lives, literally, in each others hands, and pull ourselves through extreme physical and psycological hardships together, yet how often do we really, if ever, open up and confide in each other about issues we are struggling with?

> Is it the need to maintain a tough guy image, or is it the need to keep our climbing lives separate from our 'non climbing' lives in order to preserve it's escapism and cathartic properties?

> Or is it that men, are just predisposed and societely pre-programmed to keep it bottled up?
>

The other reading is that hard climbing by it's very nature is about controlling and bottling up emotions, so it may not be ironic at all.
eroica64 - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Goucho:

It's time for a female slant on this topic I feel. Is it just a man thing - or did Alison Hargreaves and other female mountaineers/climbers feel an echo of the same obsessive things.
Greenbanks - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

There are some massive 'self' issues woven amongst and between the various responses to this marvellous thread. I've just been reading about the tragedy that overtook Hayden Kennedy (https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=672533)

In a link ( https://www.adventure-journal.com/2017/10/climber-hayden-kennedy-dead-montana-avalanche/ ) Kennedy's observation, heavily poignant because of the circumstances that he experienced, seems also apposite to much of what's been discussed here:

“…There is this dual nature of sublime meaning and utter absurdity in climbing mountains. Sending harder, bigger, more badass routes won’t make you a better, more humble, more gracious or happier human—yet we often approach those mountains like they can. There is no glory, no real answers, in sending and summits, yet we organize our entire lives around the myth that there are.”
Mick Ward - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to eroica64:

> It's time for a female slant on this topic I feel. Is it just a man thing - or did Alison Hargreaves and other female mountaineers/climbers feel an echo of the same obsessive things.

You're right - it is time for a female slant on this. I'll probably get flayed to death for this but re Alison Hargreaves:

I remember an early interview where she said she never trained. She was at the Leeds wall pretty much every time I was there and I certainly trained! Of course there may have been a significant lead time between the interview and her/my visits. Was she telling porkies? Absolutely not. She seemed utterly truthful. But... the seeds of denial?

Terry Gifford used to do a Mountaineering Literature Festival every year. Yes, it was Old Codgers mostly - but superbly organised and run by Terry. Every year he'd have someone who was active. One year it was her.

A guy from the audience asked her whether she felt pressure to do routes because of sponsorship. I can't convey the horror I felt at her, "No!" The denial was terrible. There and then I thought, "She's doomed." I think most people in the audience took her reply at face value. But they weren't active climbers, facing the odds each day.

A little later, someone else asked her re her six north faces, "Have you never wanted to do modern routes?" Again her reply was whiplash, "Don't you think I could?" (or words similar). It was a bumbly question; the guy just didn't know. But by then we'd had Thierry Renault's route (sorry, can't remember the name) with F7c and hard ice. (Maybe we'd had Andy's 'Beyond Good and Evil'.) And the correct answer was, "No - she couldn't have done those."

I think she was in a slightly different - but not massively dissimilar - place to what's been discussed on this thread. I think life was closing in on her and the only way out she could see was going for it.

An earlier victim - also sadly missed - said, "I don't know why the f*ck I'm doing this." He also had problems in his life. Should have bailed - but peer pressure, public expectations.

As with Dougal Haston, none of this is to imply any disrespect for Alison Hargreaves. She was a lovely young woman, I would imagine an exemplary mother and an outstanding mountaineer. Amazing motivation and guts.

Mick







Greenbanks - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to eroica64:
Maria Coffey's stuff is a good source...
Post edited at 21:41
Mick Ward - on 10 Oct 2017
In reply to John2:

Hi John - never argue with a Oxford Classics scholar! And I won't.

Oddly enough normally I would know what a pathetic fallacy means. But I think I've hooked in to what Robbins (if it was Robbins?) was saying. Though come to think of it, I can't imagine Robbins (of all people) not knowing what a pathetic fallacy is. So heaven alone knows. Anyway I'll take full responsibility for the error.

Call it what you will though, it happens with climbers. And it's pure delusion.

Not wishing to make excuses but, as I mentioned at the beginning of that long screed, I'm not quite of sound mind about this subject. So it's highly likely that my arguments are flawed anyway.

Caveat emptor!

Mick


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