You got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run...
Ah, Kenny Rogers, my hero. Truer words have not been written... (ok, some other equally true words have though). These apply to so many things in life...
Back from yet another adventuresome weekend, rock climbing. The song (that I know all the words to, btw, because it was on the first record album I ever bought) was going through my head for two days. Why? Because I backed off of two climbs this weekend.
Backing off a climb is not something I do lightly. One of the great things about rock climbing is the challenge of figuring a problem out and addressing it successfully. Sometimes it's the intellectual puzzle: you have to try so many different ways, and one way works. Sometimes it's the mental/emotional barrier: you have to believe in yourself, and you muster the ability/strength to do it. Sometimes it's the fear (which is related to the previous one): and you have to let go of the fear in order to be able to move forward (see the Gnome for some thoughts on fear).
Sometimes though, even if I let go of the fear, common sense has to take hold, and I have to realize either I do not have the 'head' for it, or the current skill level, to do a particular move/climb, on that particular day. Or, perhaps, that the risk is just not worth it on that particular day.
Sometimes you just have no choice. Since rock climbing outside is not indoor rock climbing, there's no pieces of colored tape to mark the route. So, you can get lost on a route if you've never been on it before. I once got lost on a relatively easy route, and was on a 5.9 R or X (see explanation at end for what this means). I was 1/2 to 2/3 the way up, and had to keep going, and made it in part because I didn't get lost on something harder, and I didn't freak out.
In any event, this weekend I had a choice. In both cases it was early in the climb - no more than 30-40 feet up - and there was a way to escape and still keep the gear. In both cases if I had fallen, I would have at least broken an ankle, perhaps leg (I have several close climbing friends who have had pretty bad injuries in the place we climbed this weekend). In both cases I had the skill level, but just did not want to take the chance.
So, on two separate days I backed down.
And it sucks.
But in both cases it was the right decision.
It still sucks.
But I am unharmed, can walk, did not have a trip to the hospital.
Yep, still sucks.
But how great it would have been if I HAD done it.
Maybe someday I will know. The rock will always be there, as long as I live at least. I can always go back another day. And try, try again.
[In some areas, climbs can be rated according to the quality/quantity of gear placements available. G is lots of gear placements available. PG is there's enough to usually keep you safe but it can be tricky to find/place. R is there's instances in which there is no good gear available in a long enough stretch that you will take a huge, potentially hurtful fall. X means likely/certain injury/death if you fall (don't even think about falling).]