I Don’t Enjoy Rock Climbing Anymore


Note for James: Since writing this, Sam has been climbing more, and seems to be enjoying it again. It will stay here until he decides to take it down or comment further.

I never thought I’d say that, but last weekend it was true. The magic is gone. I have to confess.

I didn’t have fun. I seriously would have almost preferred to sit on the couch watching TV. Or at least tuning and fiddling with my ski gear. Nearly all my outdoor climbing recently has been type III fun. I’m scared the whole time. Not in an exciting I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that way, in a dull terrified this-is-fucked way. When I get off the climbing there’s no satisfaction at all, just relief.

I can’t trust anything. I don’t trust the belayer to catch me, I don’t trust the rope not to break, I don’t trust the rock, I don’t trust the shoe rubber on smears, I don’t trust my own decisions.

Every time my grigri slipped on the rap ins at Point Perp my heart skipped. I was certain I’d death grip the lever and hold the cam open as I slid to the bottom. I visualised what would happen to my friends when all their gear blew and their belay blew and they landed on the boulders eighty meters below. And everyone’s smiling and laughing. Can’t any of you see how fucked this sport is?

I led a grade 7 and a grade 8. I stopped at the wrong stances. I was a hesitant shaky mess. My gear was shit, I knew it, I didn’t use the slings I knew I needed to use, but I left it and kept on climbing past it. I yarded and stood on loose blocks. I wobbled to the top. The moves weren’t interesting and it just felt pointlessly dangerous. I really believed it was a waste of my time. I was worried I’d drop my second. Using a grigri.

A year ago I felt I had it all. I was redpointing and working the hardest and best sport routes I’d ever tried, I was leading and pushing as hard as I ever had on gear, I was psyched on new routes and bought a drill.

What happened? Is this really all from the accident I had in August? Right now climbing isn’t worth it. I don’t love it, I just feel obliged to use my gear because I paid money for it.

And in the midst of this people have the gall to tell me to “just get on it”. Go fuck yourselves. “The only thing that’s going to turn this into an epic is you freaking out”. Oh really? Fuck off. I’ve been climbing long enough to know what I’m up for. And if any of you try to tell me what I “need” to do after you read this I will freaking slap you.

I’ve also lost the illusion that all climbers are automatically amazing perfect people. Climbers are just people. Many a great. Many are assholes. Most can be selfish, and many have problems just like anyone.

Maybe this is all just a bad case of Point Perpendicularitis. I’ve always frozen up trying to climb there. I’d go to a psychologist but if I said “I no longer feel the desire to risk death scaling cliffs in arbitrarily dangerous ways, for the sake of style and aesthetics” I’m not sure they’d see the problem.

I think I might take up bouldering for six months or so. I’m weak as hell but at least I’ll have the feeling of progress in a comfortingly small artificial world.

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