Saturday, 5 July 2008

A Downward Spiral

Well, what started off as a good week, got worse and worse and ended up with me totally gripped with fear down on the sea cliffs at Meikle Partans.
Monday and Wednesday were good days, seeing me run 13 miles and climbing 5 routes at the Deceptive Wall on the Aberdeen sea cliffs, one of the nicer cliffs on the coast. Jonathon and I met up with Chris and I kicked off the evening leading a V.Diff which turned into a solo when I couldn't see anywhere to put gear. Chris then led a HS called Yawn Pillar which he thought a bit dull, but that I quite enjoyed.

Then Jonathon led his 3rd ever trad lead and flew up it no problem whatsoever. His confidence and climbing ability for one so new to climbing is brilliant to see!

My turn again, a Severe called Untroubled Blue, which is a fantastic wee line with fairly reachy and small but positive holds. To finish off the evening, Chris led Waves, a brilliant wee HS with a move over a wee roof.

Thursday is when things started to go just a little pear shaped! I had arranged to go climbing with Adam at Dunkeld and was keen to do Beech Tree Wall and have a look at a VS called Ivy Crack that had been recommended to me. Adam had arranged to phone before lunch time, but I reckon his idea of lunch time and mine differ somewhat, lol! By the time he called, I really wasn't in the mood for climbing but went along anyway as I hate letting folk down. I jumped on Kestral Crack to warm up and had a bit of trouble figuring out the best way to get off the ground! Then I wobbled my way up the slab and got stuck at the overlap below a giant flake. My gear was ok, but I just couldn't figure the moves and didn't remember it being that hard previously! Up and down, up and down, before Adam convinced me to traverse further right, under the flake itself and up a series of ledges. Hah! No way! There was nothing for me to hold onto going that way! So, back my way, but just a little right of my original spot, there's a good hold, up I go and bingo, there's the jug. All that faff for such a simple move!! Bung a couple of good cams in the flake and 1st pitch done. Eejit that I am, I set up the anchor for Adam leading through, instead of me leading on, couldn't be arsed sorting it out, so told Adam to lead through on the 2nd pitch. Had a look at Ivy Crack on the way back to the sacks. It looks a very nice route, but pretty reachy for a short ass! I didn't have a proper look at it though, I'll probs have a better look when I'm with Chris.
Adam wasn't sure what he wanted to do. I don't think either of us was keen to push things. Adam only likes pushing his grade when he climbs with those harder than he does and my head wasn't in the right place really either. Adam went for Bollard Buttress Direct, which was my 1st Severe lead a few years ago and my memory of it was as a straight forward route. But Adam was up and down like a yoyo and placed about 7 bits of gear on a short stretch of the route! When I got to the bit he'd been unsure about I could see why! How the I managed to lead that as my 1st ever severe is beyond me! I nearly fell off seconding it, climbing like a twit, just couldn't seem to read the rock at all.

That was us for the day, we spent too long on our respective routes, too much time looking around, too much time faffing. I did spot a lovely looking VS though called Spirocheate which I'd love to lead when I ever get the balls for the run out slab at the top!

Fri night and Chris and I are off to Cummingston to climb on the sandstone cliffs. Both Chris and I are keen to lead Centre, a brilliant looking VS4b. But I just can't get into the right frame of mind at all. I'm feeling all hormonal, have a bit of a niggling headache and a brain that feels like mush or cottonwool. I just can't climb. My hands touch the rock, and I just stare and don't know what to do, don't know how to progress upwards. Feel tired, back hurts, brain is dead. Not good. Chris takes over and leads a severe to warm up. I struggle on second, find it tough on my arms, pumpy, overhanging, strenuous. I feel shaky, like a tentative beginner on her 1st route outdoors. But I get up it! It's not a great route, quite dirty with sand.

We go to have a look at Centre. What a line, utterly fantastic! The sort of line that screams out to be climbed! But I can't do it, not today. I've lost my get up and go completely. I feel numb inside, completely drained of focus and resolve to do anything about it. Chris leads the route in superb style, and I feel that I should feel eager to follow what has to be one of the nicest single pitch VS's I've seen, but I don't feel eager at all. Just a sense of dread, a sense that I don't really want to be here doing this. I make a mess of it! Miss a crucial hand hold, keep trying to hold on to a ridiculous rounded hold just because it has chalk on it (Chris used it briefly to place gear or something I think) I'm out of balance, foot on some wee edge that feels too small in my mental state, to be of any use and I fall off, swinging out into space. I scream out in frustration!!!! And I fall again, and I fall again. Chris asks if I want lowered off and this brings out a little of my spirit that seems to have disappeared for a day off and I refuse to be beaten! I see the hold I missed, a positive, triangular niche, grab it, reach up for the jugtastic edge of the roof, swing over, feet up and thug my way upwards. It's not over yet though. I'm still making really hard work of what should be an easy corner and slab above. Finding it too reachy, I feel too stiff and awkward, not really enjoying it. Pissed off to make such a mess of such a lovely route. I don't feel worthy of it.

Next we just toprope a final route for the evening. It's a VS5a called Left. Chris flies up no problem whatsoever. I'm paranoid about everything!! I check my harness, I check my knot, I worry about the toprope on sharp edges (it's sandstone ffs!!!! there are no sharp edges!!!) Sometimes I hate being a woman, hate my moods, my cyclical nightmare! Anyway, I climb the route no problems at all. It's tough, strenuous, but I cruise it! Do I feel good about it, do I f*ck, I'm still feeling crap about falling, I'm just feeling crap full stop. Berate myself for all the nonsense in my head!
It's a beautiful night. Camped out on the beach, trying to chill, a glass (OK, a mug) of wine (I can hear Chris laugh at my suggestion of just a wee glass before asking for my mug to be filled, lol!) Don't feel fully relaxed though. Feel stressed, feel sorry for myself, feel annoyed at myself for feeling sorry for myself. You getting the picture yet?! Don't sleep well. Back hurts, painkillers, muscle relaxants, still can't sleep. Feeling anxious for no reason at all.

Morning. Plan was to either go to Cairngorms and climb down in the Loch Avon Basin or to drive up to Torridon and climb on Beinn Eighe. Tell Chris I can't do the mountains today. I just don't have it in me. Still feeling crap, more crap than yesterday if that's possible, lol! I feel guilty, feel that I'm letting Chris down. He says he doesn't mind, but I'm paranoid he's just being polite. Oh ffs, get a grip! I hate this, I hate these thoughts and feelings, they are not me!!! I'm being taken over by a simpering, anti-Sonya, grumpy, negative, soul-less blob and I have no control over it. I can't shake myself out of it! We go to Logie Head instead. We have a look at the Tidal and Star Zones which are normally blocked off by the tide when I've been to Logie in the past. Chris likes the look of a severe chimney but it's filled with bird shit, mmmm nice! Back to the Embankment where Chris leads a severe and then leads the VS, Poacher. He does it brilliantly, really does and he's pleased as punch! I feel a bit emotional, ffs, simpering, sentimental fool! I still can't climb it though, lol! Sit down to have a brew, Adam, Mel, Amanda, Alan and a guy called John turn up. I'm quite amazed to see Adam so far from Dundee! He must be feeling adventurous today, lol! We don't hang about for long though, our (Chris's) objective done, there is nothing left here we want to do.
Down to Meikle Partans and I just fall to pieces. As soon as I get there, the sea is just too much, I feel sick and dizzy. We have to scramble up and then down to get to a HS that Chris wants to lead. I make myself do it. I'm scared, I wobble my way downwards. Chris can see I don't feel so good today and puts in an anchor for me. After an initial hesitation Chris quietly leads the HS, sets up a belay, whilst I'm getting more and more gripped below. I really don't want to do this route, I really don't want to back off from doing this route. 'Climb when ready!' God, I can't do it!!! I feel so sick, so scared. I can reach the crucial hold to get off the ground but it's pushing me outwards and all the while I can hear the threat of the sea below me. It sounds mean and aggressive, dark and so fucking primal. It sucks away at me, consumes me, just too much and I can't deal with it, not today. I have to get Chris to 'ab down for the gear. I fucking hate myself today! I scrabble back up and sit on the rock, shuffle downwards slowly to the sacks. I want to cry, I really do, I just want to sob and let it all out. Let all what out I really don't know, all my fear and frustration maybe. But I don't, I don't let myself cry. I don't want to embarrass myself. You don't cry just because you back off a route. Is that why I wanted to cry? I don't know, just don't know. Tears are for little girls anyway right? Not for grown women, certainly not grown women who climb. What a load of pish! I have my pride though, I'll keep my tears for myself in a private moment if need be.

I tell myself it's OK. It's just the sea freaking me out, and freaking me out more than usual because of my sensitive mood today. I'll be OK to belay Chris on the VS called The Bridge because it's not so close to the sea. I have to scramble up a few ledges first to the belay stance. I don't want to! I don't want to let Chris down though! He's climbing so well, ticked off 2 of the VS's he wanted to lead, if he can get this 3rd one, it will have been a great weekend for him. I have to belay for him. I try, I really do try. I get up there but I just feel awful. I don't feel comfortable at all. It all feels foreign to me, unnatural, foreboding. Chris can tell immediately that I'm not comfortable and he tells me to come down. I don't need any persuading. I have to be helped down, that is how bad things have gotten. Back on the ground, my sack won't sit still and keeps falling over, I push it down roughly, grunting in disgust, pissed off.
Paranoid again, that Chris won't want to climb with me again now he sees what a crap climber I am, how easily I can be scared off. That I'm a moody cow, that's affected by her hormones and just can't climb. Right now I wish it were next week. I know that tonight I will feel fat, I will feel ugly, I will feel greasy and unwashed even after a bath! My back and belly will hurt. I'll curl up with a hot water bottle on my back to try and soothe the feeling of a hot knife slicing into my lower spine and the feeling like my spine is collapsing in on itself. I'll curl up with my hotwater bottle, take some painkillers, sleep it off and either tommorrow or the next day, I will be right as rain. I will be bright and happy again, laughing and smiling inside and life will be good :o)
I've made a descision today though. That when I'm feeling hormonal and my back hurts (which comes for a day or two every month without fail) then I'm not going to climb. I'm going to have those days off and just chill, lock myself away, maybe spend some time in the garden which is really needing some T.L.C.

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