It's amazing what a social gathering can do. I recall this one party back in 2002 where I met a 'semi-professional' boxer. He was a burly fellow no doubt, his head was roughly the size and shape of a microwave oven, deep set eyes, hunched shoulders and a twisted glare in his eyes. He was a nice bloke, crazy, but nice, we downed more than a few pints and I admired his intensity to get in a ring and fight. Personally, I've always wanted to know how I'd react in a fight,
Would I crumple into a heap in the corner? Perhaps.
Would I get nervous and make stupid moves, leaving myself open for hearty face shots? Possibly.
Or would I turn into a razor sharp, lightning fast, thundering ass kicker? Not likely.
Truth be told I'd probably fall somewhere in between, get bruised and bloodied and walk away with a more intimate knowledge of myself.
This fighter asked me about Climbing, "I hear you're a real hot shot" he'd say. "Nope, just an obsessed skinny white boy with two much free time" I replied. "I tried climbing once" he noted, "but I got a fear of hights and I came down before I could ring the bell or whatever's up there". There's is usually nothing "up there" I replied, "just the roof of the building, or the top of the cliff, it's not very common there is a celebratory bell to ring, or a crowd to embrace". In that reguard, climbing is not like Boxing. When the bell goes, you know the round is over. There is no bell in climbing. You keep your fists up until the end. Either you win, or you don't. But I learned something that night, something he said about having a FEAR of hights. Fear is his opponent.
The conversation was fun and we had a mutual respect for each by the end of the night. The last thing I remember him saying before I fell into a blurry haze, was that the only difference between the two activities, is that "climbing does not hit you back".
Fast Forward; Scotland 2008.
I say bullshit. Climbing hits you back, maybe not with a leather glove mind you, but certainly with everything else. On the RIGHT hand you have Gravity, this glorious life force of unprecedented power, gravity is neutral, it is the law and it does not bend for nobody. Nobody I say. Not even Kilian Fischuber (the new Teva mountain games world cup bouldering champion). And then on the LEFT hand you have a sneaky hook, the rock itself. This paw leaves us twisted and contorted, bending and sliding, kneebaring and fist jamming, trying to solve it's wild pattern of blows, hopefully before we are defeated. Climbing is fighting, and I challneg anyone to tell me they don't put up a little fight when they climb. We don't strap on skis or snowboards and use gravity to our advantage. We don't put on skates and wheels and glide over terrain, we strap up our boots on the bottom and we fight like dogs upward to the sky, trying to ring our inner bell, telling us the battle is over, even if just for a short time. The only rounds we have in climbing, are our attempts, and like I mentioned before, there is no time on that, no bell, it's just fight or flight in all it's shimmering glory.
Climbing is one of the few if not the only activity that requires a consistent struggle against the forces of nature, not with them. Of course we try to use them to our advantage, we are still at war and ultimately at tremendous odds. To comment for a second if I could about the gray area of climbing that I wrote about before, this does not apply to the actual act of climbing, climbing is black and white, if you fall, you fall, the gray area comes into play when trying to grade and label your fight. A boxer does not come out of the ring and say, DAMN, that Tyson is a brute motha fu$#ah, I'd say he is an F9 on the open ended rating scale. NO, they don't do that, they just say, Mike Tyson is a whack powerhouse with a fist full of lead, he kicked my ass, (or chewed my ear off) and now I have to live with that. I have to accept that. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya, these men are great fighters, not numbers. Gray areas exist, not in the doing, but in the saying. Talk is cheap. And right now, Rhapsody is a brute motha fu$#ah. (for me).
Cory Richards finger after a session on the wall. His bloody knuckle just won't quit and bleeds through the tape, wrapped four times around. But he doesn't bitch, he doesn't whine, doesn't moan, he dabs a little chalk on it and goes back up for round 11.
This is the look of a man who lost, but really won round 11. He hurt his opponent, badly, and he knows it. Yes, he chipped his tooth in the process, but that is of little regard, it's one small crimp for Cory and one giant chink in the armor for Requiem. It is wounded and on the run.
Cory ready to rock, not backing down for an inch, the greatest fighter of our generation. A monumental scrap, we are tired of being picked on by these looming lines, we want to own this, we want to bend these climbs over our knee and spank it purple. (hypothetically speaking of course).
And so it goes. Down but not out, we are having our asses handed to us, there is no denying that. But slap me sideways if this isn't where the real fun begins, if this isn't where we come to learn about ourselves, what we have inside, where we fold, the eye of the tiger or… the eye of something else, like a bunny rabbit or a white tailed dear perhaps. We go.