Column – Losing It

Andrea Hah on dummy spits at the crag

WORDS: Andrea Hah, IMAGE: Lee Cossey

I can’t control it. And I can’t explain why climbing sometimes elicits an uncontrollable surge of anger, fury and utter helplessness unlike any other aspect of my life.

I would like to think I am a pretty level-headed person. Most of the time life is pretty easy. I don’t feel chronically stressed and I rarely have conflicts despite having been to a girls’ school or that I now live in a small town. And I rarely have emotional meltdowns (I say rarely, not never).

Even a mellow Mountains-hipster-sponsored-crag-crusher like Ben Cossey can lose his temper from time to time, especially when his weak big brother climbs his project at the training wall. Image by Lee Cossey

Even a mellow Mountains-hipster-sponsored-crag-crusher like Ben Cossey can lose his temper from time to time, especially when his weak big brother climbs his project at the training wall. Image by Lee Cossey

However, for some uncontrollable reason the thing I love most in life is the thing I sometimes hate most. I love the continually evolving challenge of climbing. I love the process of searching for an inspiring goal for myself and configuring a plan of attack, whether it be tactical, training or logistical. Do I implement a specific training schedule? Or do I do research into sun orientation, climate seasons, access and gear beta?

There is a lot of fear in setting goals. There is a lot at risk to achieve an arbitrary “accomplishment”. To believe in your ability to achieve a goal takes confidence. It takes an arrogant belief in yourself that you are, or at least can be, “that good”.

I recently “failed” at accomplishing one of my main goals for the year of 2015. It was meant to be a two week “holiday”. But it ended up being a fortnight of angst. I got unlucky with the weather and experienced ten-plus days of over 30°C heat. Despite the atrocious conditions – and all proper logic – I decided to stubbornly persist trying my project.

Each and every time I fell I would feel an overwhelming surge of fiery pressure rise from deep within my stomach. I felt like a real-life cartoon character with red exploding eyeballs, grimaced jaw and clenched fists. I would sit on my rope, searching for something appropriately loud to smash and remember there was only ever a mere boar’s hair toothbrush attached to my chalk bag. I would exclaim the most self-hating, abusive, offensive and embarrassingly inappropriate things imaginable. Words I cannot repeat. Words I never say on level ground. My self-esteem would shatter into a million pieces, leaving less and less remaining for the next redpoint attempt.

All too often I feel alone in my immature outbursts. And ashamed of behaving so irrationally and obscenely, but it seems I am not totally alone.

This recent trip down south created the perfect conditions for heat-induced temper tantrums – not only for me, but also for the usually cool Lee Cossey. Lee’s normal calm demeanour seems to have a temperature boiling point. Just like what kryptonite is to Clark Kent, heat is to Lee Cossey.

Add up 34°C heat, falling off the “easy” section after the crux, epic pump, the lure of the first ascent of Agent of Cool, trad-gear logistics and you have the a recipe for the ultimate explosion.

The fall was silent. But the aftermath was volcanic – a constant volcanic eruption of screaming every self-despising adjective imaginable. Lee landed on the ground frothing at the mouth with veins popping from his forehead and forearms. Skin covered in a film of dirt, sweat and black soot from brushing against burnt trees. Blood splatters on his chest from bleeding tips. With frantic, dilated pupils he desperately searched for water. After spotting his bottle, he unscrewed the lid and poured it over his body. The shock of the water seemed to transform Lee back from Hulk-form and he sat in silence and laughed, ‘I think I am hot.’ I peeped my head over from behind a boulder, to check if it were safe to come out.

Why such great frustration? Why such uncontrollable anger doing what one loves? Because we have such high expectations for ourselves. There is also a social expectation to keep your cool. Dummy spits in sport are frowned upon and penalties are allocated in high profile sports. And I understand the sentiment. I sympathise with the crowd that it’s unpleasant to witness and I can understand why it is considered unsportsmanlike. But it’s naïve and ignorant to think that the immense amount of energy and passion invested will not also sometimes come with expressions of disappointment.

I believe life should be filled with the highs and lows of experience. Whether it be head-butting walls, throwing shoes and gear off cliffs or yelling verbal abuse at your belayer. Don’t suppress those feelings. I believe as long as you are willing to wear the possible shame, apologise to those deserving of it, and laugh at yourself in retrospect, live it and feel it to its fullest.

Andrea is sponsored by Black Diamond, PrAna and Tenaya.

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