The Importance of ‘First’
The past few weeks have been great in South Wales, Sunshine has returned and with it many of us have been out and about. Dynamic Rock has been busy with lots of you training and trying out the new routes this month plus the leading ladder has been and gone again and many Swansea based climbers are looking set to make the final in April! We have had some events at the centre that have seen you all busy with the demo night for CU Belay glasses being a popular evening.
Away from the centre Ashleigh Wolsey-Heard has become a member of the British Climbing team after a brilliant display in the GB team evaluation day at Leeds. This has given me great pride in seeing Ash go from climbing in our kids club to Dynamic Rock climbing team and now moving forward and joining the UK’s Elite! We all wish him the best in his future challenges.
Speaking of the Team, a large number of them recently spent the day out at Dinas rock climbing and Bouldering with everyone having a great time, some experiencing rock for the first time. Also the team recently competed in the Welsh Final and brought home the trophy! next stop the UK final in Wolverhampton.
Owen Jones climbing at Dinas Rock
There has also been many Firsts from our customers, Sam Clarke and Chris Wyatt climbing there first 7b’s, Paul Walters Climbing his first new route, a super cool boulder problem at Dinas Rock, topo forthis newly developed bouldering spot coming soon. Tadas climbed his first 8a in spain and Vilja her first 7b!
Climbing is a odd sport its unlike most conventional sports, you have no one to compete against, it is rarely looked at as a team sport, although the power of teamwork from belayer to climber is a massively important part in any ascent. In fact to onlookers climbing makes no sense at all, some climbers wouldn’t even call it a sport!
If you ever tell some one you are a climber they will normally ask ‘how high have you climbed?’ As to non-climbers the pursuit of difficulty is a hard concept to understand, yet to almost all climbers from hill walkers to sport climber’s difficulty is the Holy Grail, it is our ‘First’ place, the way we as climbers measure ourselves not against others but against our previous best.
As a young Scout hill walking in the Snowdonia it didn’t take long for the desire to ‘climb’ Snowdon via the Pyg track to be eclipsed by the north east ridge of ‘Tryfan’. From here a modest jump sees me and a few friends having some adventurous days out in the hills of Scotland under a blanket of winter snow with the challenge of the day’s outing now taking greater significance than the objective. No longer are we going out for a days walking up a modest hill/mountain but we are spending time pouring over maps looking in guide books for more demanding lines to the summit and the valley tracks are swapped for the rocky ridge lines, or steep icy gullies and so on. It is not a huge jump for a young scout hill walking in the peak district to get to the young teenager and his buds finding themselves high on Montblanc at 0400 in the morning with no clue where they are (other than in the alps somewhere nr Mont blanc).
Looking for adventure, or to push boundaries?
Probably both, Me and Paul on the Monch Winter 98
“The quest for adventure” is usually given as the answer as to why we choose to do these things, but underneath there is always an ambition to climb further, harder, steeper than your previous attempts, this plays a huge part in what drives a climber into the wild places that we play in. This drive to push past previous boundaries comes at a price – it has seen me and my buds have some scrapes, from dodging massive rock falls and avalanches, to becoming stranded at altitude and suffering frostbite, breaking limbs in falls and suffering massive hospital time. But we always come back, we always look to push past our previous high point, our PB, we always look for greater difficulty.
Fast-forward a few years (quite a few actually, it was my birthday recently and apparently im getting a little older, luckily I still feel like the lost boy on Mont Blanc having the time of my life), and I find myself hanging from a bolt in a large roof at my beloved Dinas rock. The line I’m trying to climb is a little odd to those who walk underneath me on their way to see some of the great water falls around or to the various stag do’s on gorge walk adventures, for one, it does not even go to the top of a crag! But to me it is everything, it is a step into the unknown, like the day I first kicked my crampon into a big north face route in the Alps I’m trying to see if I can. It's in this insignificant piece of rock that I have found a challenge that I didn’t think I could do but slowly im working it out and one day I will climb from the floor to the chain and complete my challenge. For that day it will be the most important route in the world you can forget your K2’s or Matterhorn’s the main roof at Dinas Rock will be the centre of my universe but then the sun will dip and my dreams will move on to future challenges and to finding a greater challenge.
In other sports we compare athletes against other athletes or teams against teams, it all about who comes first. In climbing there is no real first, yes you can be the first to climb a particular piece of rock, or to the summit. But that does not make you the best and do many of us really care who the best is? I think almost all climbers I have come across from young gym climbers to hardened old timers are all looking not to be first but to do their first, they are looking to take a bigger bite, to pick a bigger fight, it does not matter if you’re a hill walker or a boulderer, a mountaineer or a sports climber how you measure your 'first' might be different, we have created many daft grading scales around the world to give us an idea of the challenge we are undertaking, but all that matters to most is that we challenge ourselves more than we tried previously!
is the smile from being first, or from his 'first' ?
In climbing there is always arguing amongst climbers, or good pub discussions might be a better way to put it from that 6b is only 5+ or that is never E3, or more controversial Bolts or trad, I’d say to you its all climbing and having climbed in pretty much every discipline to a high level I can say the underlying challenge of trying to reach further than your grasp is the same whether you are clipping a bolt, soloing on some great rock face, or high on some icy mountain, so don’t hold yourself back try all climbing has to offer. Do not get caught up in the bull s@^t that some would have you believe, that some forms of climbing are more worthy than others, Clip some bolts, learn to climb trad, climb a mountain, find out what rocks your world and one day bite off a little more than you think you can handle, then you will really know why you climb and why firsts are so important!
get out there and see what boundries you can push, you will probably have a great adventure along the way