Thursday, 26 March 2009

Questions, questions...

This is one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen and tried:

Yes it's a rubbish photo, but even if it wasn't, most people would rightly be appalled at my claims of inspiration. It's an obscure mossy, lichenous slab that's so far off most peoples' climbing radar it could be on a separate planet - as in "What fXXXing planet are you on Fiend??"

It's in the Forest Of Dean (why??) at Huntsham Crag (where??) and it's called Shadowlands (okay, great name for a start). And it's amazing. Slicing diagonally through the moss is a line of large but spaced pebbles stretching the full height of this 9m slab. There's hardly any other holds, very little respite, no escape and no gear. It is bizarre and brilliant, and even the moss adds to the surreal seduction.

I heard of it several years ago, looked at it a couple of years ago, and tried it a few days ago. Despite being a fair esotericist, even I find the Forest Of Dean too specialist for my tastes - too soloey, too dodgey rock. However I cannot resist Shadowlands, and the promise of a whole new experience. And by "whole new experience" I mean "whole new realm of fear". Because, despite the short height and good "Don't worry you'll only break your lower limbs" landing, the level of commitment required is unduly high: Commitment to inescapability, commitment to increasing height and increasing danger, and most of all, commitment to those bloody jutting pebbles, the pebbles that make it so awesome and so appalling.

Needless to say after several tentative attempts and a lot of slightly less tentative musing, I walked away. Walked away because I didn't want to take the risk of NOT walking away... And walked away with questions in my head:

Why would I want to do this??
Is it worth it??
Am I prepared to take the risk??
What is my motivation??
Is it ego??
Or desire??
What experience do I want??
Do I trust myself??
Do I trust those sodding pebbles??

And the answers....I don't them yet. But I will....when the time is right, I will go back, and try again, and hopefully climb this route, and understand it, and myself as a climber, a bit more more...

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