I can’t quite believe my climbing sessions keep getting better and better. Progress isn’t in a straight line, it’s almost unpredictable. I think that’s part of what I love so much about it. It’s thrilling.
This week, I was early. I know, what?? Well it’s true, I was. Which meant I could park further away and realise the map in my head is a complete black hole when it comes to this strange town where the climbing gym is. I ended up having to walk up the high street in my leggings carrying my chalk bag and water bottle. Not so strange on the way there, but on the way back? Chalk everywhere and seriously sticky – not pretty.
As it happened, my earliness was met with my climbing buddy’s lateness. By twenty minutes. And so we get to it: why you should climb with a buddy.
By the time he arrived, I was knackered, sweaty and my forearms were pumped. I’d heard of this happening (pumped forearms), but not actually properly had it. I saw him arrive as I was climbing my current nemesis and I was one hold away. I just can’t reach that top one comfortably and tap out on it. So as he arrived, I basically just jumped from the top, ran over and found I had to keep shaking my hands like I’d had too much coffee or something. I was also talking too fast, super excited and not making much sense.
It’s not like we don’t communicate in between climbing sessions – he’d emailed me that morning for goodness sake – how could I have so many things to say to him? Anyway, he caught me up and then we looked at my blue route and talked about why I couldn’t finish it. After a few more attempts, I’d calmed down but not nailed it. We decided to do something else.
You should climb with a buddy because…
When you love something, you don’t think clearly
I got too excited. I couldn’t pace myself. I really did try. I was slow through my first few routes and I didn’t do anything ambitious until I was happy I was warm. I’d come to the nice blue route I loved last week, found myself stuck and calmly retraced my steps to the bottom. Looked at it again, saw the hold I’d missed and clambered back up. This only fed my eagerness. I think I completed maybe 12 routes by the time my friend arrived and I dropped from the top in desperation. Normally we take turns – so you get a rest. Still enthusiastic, but you are forced to pace yourself, because it’s someone else’s turn.
When you finish something, you need someone else to see it
This probably says a lot about me and my need for validation or something. Whatever, this isn’t therapy.
If I win at something, I want to share it with someone. I want to turn around and say “did you see that?!” Or even better, to get to the ground and hear “wow, you aced that!”.
I don’t think I’m alone in being a creature who’s confidence grows when it’s fed with genuine little snippets that I feel are true and am proud of. If anything, empty compliments actually damage my confidence – because what are they hiding, what’s really going on?
Sorry, not therapy.
Win and share the validated glory. Thanks buddy. I also get a strange gratuitous buzz off of really difficult things he manages to do which are impossible for me right now. It’s a sort of team feeling for what looks like a solo effort.
Feedback and constructive criticism
So many times I find myself on the wall, puzzled and my friend uses the word “just”. “Just put your foot up there” or “just hold on when you grab it”. You get the idea. It makes me laugh, which makes him laugh because he then realises what he has said. And so then I do it to him.
But the point is, having someone see what you’re doing, how close you are to doing it and what you might be doing wrong – is really handy. It could be as simple as pointing your body a different way, using a heel instead of a toe or suggesting you cheat or breakdown the route to then stitch it back together again.
And then there are those words which you don’t even notice at the time. The “you can do it” words. If I climbed by myself, I don’t know if that voice would win. I might struggle to keep it and fight off the “you are going to fall and you can’t do it” voice.
Crazy ideas sometimes work
If you have someone with you to listen to the crazy ideas and say sure, let’s try that – sometimes they work. Sometimes your buddy might agree with your good idea, and expand or bend it. Then, before you know it, together you’ve cracked it! Or at least made progress…
This week, we went back to the green dragon. It starts in the cave and you have to edge along an impossible stretch created by a long volume up against the roof to get out and go on to the overhang. We had been stuck on it the week before. To be fair, we still are. But this week, I got out of the cave. I was so excited I actually managed to fall off and trip over my foot in mid air. But, we were so excited!
It felt like we’d finished it. Well, maybe not. But it felt like a significant win. Big progress.
You learn while you watch them
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I get distracted by other people and miss the tricks my buddy pulls on the wall. Sometimes I almost pay too much attention and I lose everything because I tried too hard.
But a lot of it goes in. I see what he does (and other people too), and that helps me put my own stuff together.
Even if it doesn’t help, I’m seeing lots of different ways to do things. I might not use the tricks now, but I’m putting them in the bank. It’s all part of learning. And, when my buddy stops to watch how I do something because he can’t get as far as me – that’s a pretty great feeling.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t climb by yourself. There are some pretty hardcore regulars who are on the wall at the same time as us who are by themselves. Hey, if it works for them, that’s great. But I’m learning, and so much faster than I thought I would. And I don’t think I can take more than 40% of the credit for it.
Without my climbing buddy – who I nearly turned down at the beginning because I thought it would be too weird – I wouldn’t be half as far along as I am now. Whether that means I wouldn’t be able to do it because of technique vs. confidence I don’t know. Maybe it’s all part of the same package.
The fact is, I was so very pleased when, with ten minutes ’til the end of the session, my friend turned to me and grinned. He told me to follow him and scurried around the corner.
He led me to the campus board and said the simplest, most amazing words. He said “you’re ready”. And he was right – I only went up and back down three rungs, but I could do it, relatively easily.
What he did there was to validate my progress and also reward me at the same time – this guy knows me too well!
So if you don’t have one, maybe think about getting yourself a climbing buddy…