Rock Thoughts

D & I, together with some climbing friends, were at Tung Lung Chau last Sunday for some outdoor climbing. The summer heat was a force to be reckoned with, but being away from the crowded HK mainland and hanging out with a group of like-minded people, it was an excellent way to spend the Sunday. (Pics on Webshots)

I do regret that I didn’t do rock climbing earlier in my youth, but given the almost 18 months of courses and regular training, I am pleased with what I can do now. This sport still fascinates and intrigues me, mainly because on the wall (artificial or real rocks), everything is equal, men or women.

Yes, upper body strength and powerful fingers to grip tiny holds do help, and I find that height and long arm spans do too. Nonetheless, the basic climbing techniques, e.g. balance, manipulating one’s centre of gravity, using legs to push upwards instead of pulling with the arms, must be present. It is a sport that both men and women can do equally well, the important thing is the correct application of appropriate techniques when climbing the wall.

Someone once told me that confidence to commit the move is more important ‘cos the slightest fear or doubt will stop the person from continuing and a fall is usually iminent. I am more confident while top-roping, ‘cos there is this reassurance the rope and anchors above me will hold me if I fall. Lead climbing does scare me; I know my instinct will sound the sirens when I lead more than 12 m on an easy route ‘cos falling above my last quickdraw isn’t a nice experience and I hate to take a whipper.

I suppose it is natural, but if I want to be good at lead climb, I must not be afraid to fall. I remember on a number of occasions, I just couldn’t bring myself to climb another step and fix another quickdraw, even though I know I could do it, ‘cos my mental self was too weak.

I like the fact that climbing challenges me, not just physiclaly but mentally too. It is easy to just climb, but a plan needs to be made, moves need to be visualised, and the persistance to try different options. I like the entire exercise of figuring out the moves, connecting one handhold or foothold to another, and redoing the entire sequence until I am pleased with it. What works for the guys, most of the time, doesn’t work for me. I have to compensate what I lack in upper body strength with proper technique and careful planning of the route.

The feminist in me does feel good that I can do routes that some guys can’t, but that’s besides the point. I like watching the better climbers, men or women, climb and learn from them indirectly.

In the beginning, getting to the top is my goal and I didn’t care how I did it. I could heave and grunt my way up, climb using too much effort with ugly and clumsy style, and still be pleased with myself when I reach the anchors. Afterall, you can be an elephant and make it to the top, but you are still an elephant doing it.

Now, my focus has changed. I am concerned about the process of climbing, whether it’s an easy or difficult route, the journey upwards must be stylish and efficient. D was very particular about this and hard on me when we started climbing, butI am grateful that he did that and patiently belay me until I get it right. Nowadays, I can just spend the whole afternoon climbing only 1 or 2 routes, ‘cos I will be trying out different combinations of moves and find the one that I am satisfied with. You only get better if you make repeated attempts. Some people take a shorter time, whereas others, like me, need days or even months to get it right.

D & I, together with our usual climbing buddies, are planning for a climbing trip to Krabi during Xmas time this year. I am really looking forward to it… can’t wait.

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