Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why do " I " go rock climbing?

Why do " I " go rock climbing?

Something I dug up...The piece I used at the "Where Trails End, Journeys Begin" talk on rock climbing at R.O.X.  Re-titled it to "Why do "I" go rock climbing?"  from "Why do we go rock climbing" as I feel we all have our own reasons...

The answer to the question is as varied as the number of climbers you ask.  It may vary with age, with level of climbing whether they’re just beginning or have been climbing for a number of years, with gender, with social or political status, geography, religion, etc.…there is probably an infinite number of answers to the question.  But there is one very common ingredient with everybody’s perception of climbing and that is it’s FUN !  It’s so generic but I can try to define fun in a number of ways.  

One of the many routes under the big arch of Getu Valley,  shot taken during the Petzl RocTrip 2011
Unfinished business at Banyang Cave, Getu 
It is most definitely natural to go climbing.   Since children we’ve all been climbing.  There is nothing so technical about going up.  It is just climbing…you get one hold and then the next, step up one hold and keep moving up.  Nothing too hard about that?  It’s so easy to understand. As children we’ve all been given that ability, maybe some have forgotten, maybe it’s just a matter of relearning these things.  Maybe it’s just about having fun again like children. Play around on the rocks, get all dirty and still look good… Meet new people to play with and not have any pretensions.  It’s like kindergarten, everyone’s your friend.  It’s a life less serious. You will learn to let go of ego.  It will keep you young.  The more you climb the younger you get.  You will begin to see life in a whole new perspective.  You will realize that time does not exist if you live fully in the moment.

Doing something new is definitely an adventure.  You’re moving into the unknown.  Rock climbing is an adventure.  Imagine yourself on the cliffs, climbing maybe 120ft. high, maybe you’ll find yourself hanging on for dear life, both your feet in the air and you have mere seconds to get back on the rock and get that good hold for a rest or maybe just sucking up and letting go and then screaming at the lop of your lungs as you let your belayer catch your fall on the rope.  Scary?  But scary doesn’t stop you from seeing a horror flick.  It is most definitely a ride you would surely want to try.  Falling and screaming are things you’ll get used to or at least try to get used to.  Then there is also success, when you find yourself at the top and you can fully appreciate the spectacular view you fought hard for.  It’s not just the view, it’s that intangible feeling that lasts only for seconds.  For sure it will be something you’ll want to feel again and again until it becomes an obsession.  You celebrate a little and then move on to another adventure, another route equally fantastic or even better.  The only way to find out is to climb it.  

Gran Boveda, Rodellar, Spain

Everything is new in climbing.  It never grows old.  No two routes are ever the same so there is always new learning.  Every movement is progressive.  It’s not a repetitive sport or activity.  You get on the rock and climb up for sometimes 100ft and no two moves will be exactly the same, unless it's a long crack.  :)   For this there is none to get bored off. 

Shek-O, Hong Kong
Climbers I think are amongst athletes with the greatest core tension.  It doesn’t come with grueling hours of unwanted exercise. You climb because you love it and physical fitness is actually just the residue, not the other way around.  You’re not climbing to get fit but you get fit because you climb.  Climbing in the gym is only the tip of the iceberg.  Climbing exists far beyond the gym walls.  If you join rocktrips, you’ll see why we try and hone our skills.  The outdoors provide so much inspiration why there is a need to keep climbing. Sometimes the most beautiful routes are the harder ones.  Also,  rock climbing burns so much energy.  You keep eating but they burn off easy.  Sometimes we climb on a route and we want to finish it in one try, so no matter how long it takes we keep to rock, climb it, rest on it, recover and then push again…I’ve experienced climbing on a single pitch route that took me 45  minutes.  Time flies by so fast and you never know it’s been taking you too long already. I can not say the same for the belayer though.

"Red Dragon" - Yangshou, China
There are so many combinations of hand and foot movements involved in climbing. Sometimes doing a wrong sequence prevents you from completing your climb.   Do you hold your core now or just a second earlier?  Do you crimp with the left or with the right hand? But there is a rhythm, a flow of movement you have to feel and get your groove on.   It is fun trying to unlock this.  Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes you just can’t get it and you have to clear your head overnight, maybe several nights.   There is a searching involved and it is quite a challenge sometimes.

"Vagabond", Ceuse, France
Climbing is also not just about power, strength, endurance or anything in the physical.  It’s also about problem solving.  True, no matter how strong you are or powerful you are, if you don’t think, you’re up for a very difficult time climbing.  Surfers read the waves and rock climbers read the rock’s most efficient sequence.  When you thought rock climbing was for jocks, if you try you’ll find out that it’s for also for the intellectually inclined.  Some rock climbers are actually rocket scientists.  It is about executing the right move at the right time.  It’s a game.  It’s a puzzle and the more you do it the more you get better at it.  The rock equalizes everyone.  It’s fun to go out climbing with different people because you see so many ways the route is solved.  

I personally feel more alive when climbing.  All your senses are on overdrive.  Specially on the harder routes, your mind is racing with your senses.  While your finger tips are holding on for dear life, your feet are pushing down on the foot holds to keep you steady.  Your breathing keeps you calm while you’re thinking of how to get yourself just one more move higher. You’re doing so many things at the same time but your mind is still where you are.  It’s not wandering, it’s with you and sometimes that gives  you peace.  You feel so active and yet it rests your mind from other things in the world. As quoted from Chris Sharma,  “You are in your own world and nothing else exists”..  Everything around you blurs and all you hear is your breath.     

Perticara, Italy
Every now and then we discover new places.  We go to new areas and explore.  We look for new rock, new boulders that haven’t been climbed.  Sometimes they’re in plain sight and sometimes we have to hike through jungles and cross rivers.  The searching is part of the whole package of climbing.  Often, while searching we get to see a lot more than what we ask for.  Sometimes these places haven’t been visited by anyone or by just a few.  All these places are spectacular.  We wonder sometimes why these places are taken for granted. There are so many beautiful places we get to see and we hope we could get more people to see these places.  The experience could really change your perspective of our country. 

Rock Climbing is very interactive. You’re out on the rock, crimping the rock, sometimes almost smelling it.  You’re breathing life to an inanimate object.    The rock comes to life and maybe this is why we begin to value what nature is offering.  We climb on these rocks, we hold them and somehow, after climbing for a while, you would feel the rock holding you.  You feel it’s energy and you’re one with it.  

To go out there, to brave the lack of comfort and immersing yourself in the search, you start your own journey.  The more you wander off the beaten track the more personal it gets.   The more personal it gets, the more transcendent it becomes in all that you do.  You’ll find your self forever recharging yourself in climbing. 

Here's a short video by Joe Kinder.  I just had to insert it here because I like it and I hope many more get to see it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Resistance and Flow

Resistance and Flow

Early  mornings are slow going on my side of the mountain.  This early January, specially, is exceptionally dawdling.  The cool mornings only effectively secures me deep in my blanket. Even though my thoughts run ahead of me, my body only sluggishly responds.  On better days, I set my alarm to go off 5:45 in the morning and “snooze” me every five minutes.  By the time I’m fully awake it’s already 6:30 a.m.   I pack hurriedly.  I cram my “evolvs”, and chalk bag into a small sling bag, and throw my crash pads into the hollow of my pick-up truck’s cab. 

I ride up the small hillside and come over the ridge to cross over from Marikina to San Mateo.  The drive doesn’t take too long and the newly smoothened out asphalt road inspires a sudden thought to go skate.  A dreamy skate ride plays around my mind as I drive towards Wawa.  I almost feel the no resistance state and I’m suddenly so relaxed.  Time felt surreally slow for a moment.  Unlike waking up too early in the morning, this new flow, I felt, seem to beckon.  I’m aware of the many resistances in the world.  Civilization as we know it today is only starting to see the effects of centuries old resistances it faced in the hands of natural order.   I myself, after climbing and fending of gravity for quite a while, feel the call of “going with the flow.”  Carving down that smooth asphalt near home couldn’t be a too bad an idea.  I know it’s going to happen but somehow I still felt too at home with taming a resistance I am all too familiar with. 

I get off my truck and haul up the pad.  Aling Norma’s Eatery is a sight for sore eyes.  I’m greeted with so friendly smiles that warms me a bit from the chilly air running beneath the giant Acacia trees. I set down everything I have and start picking something from the counter for breakfast.  Two cups of coffee and then Aling Norma’s home cooked “goto with egg”, charming! I love the picking part and then chatting with Aling Norma while enjoying breakfast. It’s always fun sharing short conversations with her.  I’m almost at home there.   I must admit though, I haven’t been to Wawa for the longest time.  Years of constrained access issues plus the continued decline of the natural state of the park contributed to my gradual dislike for the area.  Now however, I’ve gained a bit of an acceptance and I’m able to take in Wawa for what it is today.  It’s not saying I like what’s happening to the park, I’m just able to see it for the charms it still able to give.  What can I say, she’s old.   I can’t be mean to an old lady. 

Breakfast comes to a close and I lug on the pads and hike slowly towards the “Kambingan boulder”.  I’ve a boulder problem to finish.  It’s become a project and it’s the reason why I woke up early.  I could feel the resistance already just by looking at it.  The line is simple and direct.  From under the boulder’s roof, the line follows a series of good holds and then just over the lip, the problem becomes heavy.   A crimper for the left bites down on two fingers. Several tries on the problem later, I’m nursing deep pricks on my fore and middle fingers.  The whole of the morning I spent under that boulder.  It’s the only thing a came there for.  In the process though, I’ve come to realize the better things about Wawa.  Counting them all can be a bit boring but there’s one funny scene I’d  cherish somehow.  I had the opportunity to share some funny stories with two small kids.  The chit-chat was funny from the get-go.  Adin and Jen-Jen, if I got the spelling’s right, stayed with me the entire time I was under that boulder. Adin’s 10 and Jen-Jen’s 8.  They’re both boys and they looked fairly small for their age. Topics shot from how Ondoy wrecked havoc in their small barangay , to ghosts, to snakes, to trash and to how come they look so small.     I’d rather not recount their Ondoy experience but that piece of the story did ground me more to Wawa.  They’ve taken the experience lightly even while speaking of what to me sounded like harrowing ordeals.  On a lighter tone I asked, “10 ka na? Ikaw 8?, eh’ bat ang liit nyo?” (you’re 10 and you’re 8? Why do you look so small?”),  somehow I thought they would answer  somewhere like, “kasi di kami masyado kumakain” (“because we have little to eat”), but instead they answered, “Kasi tatay namin pandak!” (“because our fathers are excessively short!”).  Their answers merited a huge fit of laugher.  They continued on comparing whose father was shorter.  I didn’t care anymore, they were witty for their age.   The whole conversation with the two made the project lighter, though not enough for me to finish it.  There was the “flow” feeling again.  It felt very natural, it made things more casual.   Wawa once again is growing on me and though the fear of losing the park to more and more informal settlers still looms over the river town, all hope is not lost. Maybe there’s still hope.  I was able to connect with the kids and probably that’s the key.

In the meantime, I’ve to run off to the gym, crank in some more resistance.  It is after all what I do.  I gain more craving for “flow” through living in “resistance.”