I had covered my head with my fleece as an emergency midge helmet and sported a kind of clanking hula skirt of shiny gear and coloured strips of material that, used correctly, I knew could save me from myself. Progression in climbing seems to have its own momentum. Your life played back to you but in rock-time. When do we stop being kids? Is there ever one defining moment? You start out having fun, carefree and unselfconscious - climbing because you like the feeling of moving your body over a bit of rock. And then it all gets so bloody serious. Simple joys become hard won pleasures. Before you know it, you're in a metal hula-skirt and midge helmet, talking ethics and etiquette - hoping no one is watching you, disapproving. I was to lead an easy 8-metre corner route that any normal person could solo in a sumo suit with lard for boots. With encouragement being poured down from above like a concrete overcoat, I began by shimmying myself up and into the first comfortable bridging position. Nuts and wires didn't mean anything to me until I placed one.They were weird, improbable looking things out of their natural habitat. Like beach-stranded sea creatures. I didn't get them. I didn't get that they could really protect me, so I pushed my first one in cynically, jiggled it round a bit and then suddenly the rock bit down hard and wouldn't give it back to me. I was grateful. A few feet higher. Was I feeling the fabled buzz? Not really. Mainly discomfort scattered with moments of muted pleasure when a piece of gear fitted well: like the feeling I used to get when I got a sum right in maths homework. Qualified pleasure. I hated maths. I reached the top of the route and lay sprawled, politely waiting for the buzz to hit me. Nothing. I remember walking away still feeling like a coward. It certainly hadn't made me braver. Life still scared me. It wouldn't be until later on that evening when I thought back on the day and first felt a weird tingle, like the sting of sunburn when it starts to kick in way after dark. It was uncomfortable but there was a certain complicated pleasure, and we all know those complicated pleasures are always the ones to look out for. Was this what climbing for grown-ups was all about?
www.dmmclimbing.com Write approximately 500 words about your first outdoor lead and supply an image of you climbing (not necessarily your first lead) and submit to: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/send.html The competition will be judged by us here at DMM and the winner announced on Monday 24th December and will win a complete DMM rack worth £500. But more than that, everyone who submits an essay will receive a spot prize. More details HERE