Sunday, August 19, 2007

You got to know....

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).]


Susan said...

I'd admire that you rock climb at all. It scares me along with sky diving. There's some seriously weird stories as to why but we'll just leave them where they lie.

Also, there's a version of that song with Kenny & Wyclef. Awesome song.

NoRegrets said...

Somebody tied you to a rock and threw you out of a plane when you were young?

I'll have to look up that song. Thanks!

Gyuss Baaltar said...

Are you not belayed? Are you free climbing?

NoRegrets said...

When you are first starting a climb, you are climbing off the ground. Once you put your first piece in (preferably within 10 feet), you have a few feet (specifically 4 feet or less in example above- adding in some rope stretch) in which you could climb, fall, and still potentially not hit the ground. Getting a second piece in as soon as possible is important. If within the first 25-30 feet you have to climb more than 10 feet without being able to put in a piece, you have the potential to fall and hit the ground and there would be nothing your belayer could do. And no, catching you in their arms is not an option. Sometimes on easy climbs there's fairly big ledges also, which serve to restart the groundfall part of the equation. This was the case in both climbs that I backed off of. Actually on the first one I took a fall on a piece of gear because there was no safe way for me to climb down. I squatted down as far as I could, held on to the piece and tried to walk down, but it didn't happen and I took a fall. I thought I'd only fall a few feet but it was almost 5-6. Again, rope stretch.

briliantdonkey said...

THanks for the explanation on the ratings. Sounds like a blast. A blast that I am too old(or at least chicken), to bother trying but I guess I can live vicariously through you.


NoRegrets said...

BD, welcome! And, um, the "old" excuse doesn't work. Some of my climbing friends are in their late 50's. (I'm not sure anyone has gotten over 60, but there are certainly climbers out there that are that age!)

Tera said...

Too bad I couldn't concentrate on the rest of the post because that sone was stuck in my head!

Susan said...

Did you ever look up my song??

NoRegrets said...

no... did you ever guess what song I was referring to in some other post?