After being sandbagged by her fiancé, Current (Weak) Denby Weller has the realisation that we can’t always be Former (Strong) Denby Weller – and that’s okay
WORDS & IMAGE: Denby Weller
‘Why don’t we go to Logan Brae?’ Sax suggested, as casual as an expert sandbagger can be.
Returning to the rock after several months of plastic-fondling, it seemed like a lovely idea to try a new crag. I should have known. The last new crag Sax suggested was Centennial Glen Main Wall, or maybe PC at Nowra, I can’t remember which. Either way, it was a place where I had a legitimate chance of climbing one, maybe two routes, and then only after multiple visits and an eight-week training program. But this was a long time ago, and the memory of pain has been erased by the elation of those long distant sends, so I foolishly agreed and off we went to get lost on the new approach.
Much meandering (and a fair bit of swearing) later, I found myself contemplating the crux of the easiest climb at the crag, a stout 22 called Room With a View. Look, I know most of you reading this can’t even imagine the word ‘stout’ being appropriate for a grade 22 climb, but you can bugger off to Andrea’s column (no doubt totally awesome inspiring goodness about her recent Yosemite exploits), because this one is meant to be for beginners, or if not exactly beginners then at least the perma-weak, like me. Go on, I said, piss off.
There, now that I’m in the company of my own kind, let’s continue.
Here I was, contemplating the crux of the softest climb at the crag, and hating on myself for being so thoroughly lame compared to that time a couple of years ago when I sent a couple of 23s. Then a voice in my head reminded me that it’s death to all good climbing (and personal development – was that Anthony Robbins’ voice?) to compare oneself to anyone, least of all anyone so unreliably remembered as Former Denby.
If you’ve climbed for any length of time, you’ve experienced it: the layoff because of work, injury, holiday, childbearing or just plain can’t-be-botheredness (I’ve heard this is a thing, but I’ve always been infected with perma-psych, an unfortunate condition to be comorbid with perma-weakness). Whatever the reason, after a time, downtime is inevitable.
And then you find yourself returning to your former love, whether that’s bold trad climbing, mild sport routes where the bolts are more than two moves apart or bouldering over a mat that can actually be carried as opposed to one that is more like 17 king-size beds. And things go all funky. Your feet are like a pair of elbows at the end of your legs, your previously gloat-worthy concentration is replaced by an inner monologue spoken in screaming expletives, or your upper body is just plain unable to fight off the Gs and get your lardy lower self off the mat. Sorry, but you know, cut back on the pizza already.
The temptation to compare yourself to your former, less pizza-inclusive self is really powerful, almost as powerful as your body now isn’t. But don’t despair, dear comrade, for there is better beta for navigating this cruxiest of matters.
The winning beta, it turns out, isn’t some shortcut to returning to your former glory; it’s to embrace the weakness.
Embracing the weakness means choosing challenges that are appropriate to your current skill level, not the one you remember from back when you were Climbing Hard. Climbing Hard may come again, but for now, you are Climbing Soft, and the correct course of action is to choose some Soft targets. A single pull-up. A grade 19. No, not that one, the one on the slab. Go on, it’ll be good for your footwork.
And perhaps for this climber, the winning beta may not be some tricksome sequence that involves using all of the intermediates Logan Brae has to offer, but just coming back when those pizzas have receded a bit further into history.