One cold night in the urban hollow that is my local bouldering gym, I heard an unusual noise. Climbing a problem in the back corner, I was almost doing the splits as I moved into a powerful drop-knee. Right at that moment, an equally powerful tootle fired out of my butt cheeks. A lost goose? Nay, a fart.
I was still on the wall when I started losing it, cackling like a deranged hen as my partner, who somehow – with his face not very far from the dispatch site – hadn’t heard (or smelled) it.
“I just fa-a-arted!” I stuttered, between fits of giggles.
“I’ve got you.”
“I said I farted.”
“Did you hear me?”
“I SAID I’VE GOT YOU.”
At this point, I decided my partner was deaf. I climbed to the top, my body still shaking thanks to my private joke.
It made me reflect on the many times farting has pervaded my climbing experiences. Like the time someone shook a picnic table with a particularly thunderous blast (his new name is “Thor”*). The many times I’ve been transfixed before a crux, only to have the silence (wind) broken by that embarrassing noise shoe rubber makes sometimes. The best story has to be of the guy who was high up on Taipan Wall when the cry of his own imprisoned turd wailed out, ringing immortally within the walls of the Stapylton Amphitheatre. Apparently he laughed so hard that he shook himself off the wall. It’s a true story, and I’ve actually had it told to me twice. (Unless they were two different people, which would be equally amusing.)
And then there are the other embarrassing moments, like being halfway up a multipitch route with someone you realise you don’t know very well when it comes time, at a cramped belay, to climb across her face to get past. When this happened to me recently, I prayed nobody was watching and also that my pants – which I hadn’t changed for three days – had miraculously washed themselves overnight. There are also times, rapping off a route partnered with someone new, when I’ve wiped an enormous booger from a nostril and wondered if it was rearing its ugly head for the entire three pitches.
But I’m not complaining. Farts, boogers, stinky clothes – these are all essential parts of a wild day at the crag. Like those days when you’re two pitches up and watching rain roll in across the Wimmera. Or topping out the final climb of the day as the last rays flicker over the Mount. Or hoisting your pack on your shoulders near nightfall and feeling your abs pinch; knowing that tomorrow you’ll be wrecked and it’s all sweet. When you absentmindedly brush your face, and you can’t tell if that moisture is tears, drool, or that runny stuff that dribbles out of your nose on particularly exposed routes. There is a tangible, gritty honesty in climbing that reveals itself when all the veils of social conduct fall away, and what you have left is real friendship and real experiences. That, and an unrivalled stage for the baddest farts in the known universe.
*God of Thunder for the uncultured.