When Your Cruising Ground Becomes a Battlefield

I was going to wait until after Pembroke this coming weekend to post this blog (to see if anything changes massively) – however, most of the bank holiday weekend now looks like yucky rain so I’m going to this post anyway…

I’ve written about this before, I’m writing about it again now, and I know it won’t be the last time either.

Subject: The fear.

This stupid infliction causes me so much stress, frustration, sleepless nights and heartbreak! All I want is to be able to push myself trad climbing without being held back by perceived/irrational fear. Is that really too much to ask for?!?(1)

Bon Voyage. Photo: Tim Newton

A few weeks ago I returned from one of the most unfulfilling trad trips ever. As I sketched my way up a couple E1s and E2s, each move I dithered on apprehensively, each nut I tugged on so skeptically, each jug I gripped so tightly. Too hot, greasy finger tips, painful feet…it just felt like nothing was right.

What am I doing?? I kept thinking. This isn’t Red Walls at Gogarth, this is solid, jug-covered Pembroke, my usual ‘cruising ground’.

On Testcase last year. Photo: Jennifer Slater

On Testcase last year. Photo: Jennifer Slater

You know that one person who gets angry when they climb badly, then their anger just makes them climb worse? Then they get even more angry?? Yep that was probably me a little bit – except I try and hide it behind a smooth facade of “oh I’m just enjoying the sunshine and seeking out all the esoteric, one star E2s I have not yet done in Pembroke”. If I convince other people I don’t care then maybe I don’t?!

It’s just so frustrating when you are fully aware that the only thing holding you back is your head. It’s like you don’t even have any real excuses and you know it.

The classic ‘Daydreams’ (E2) at Mewsford, on Friday when all sensible people were in the cafe. Photo: Tim Newton

Since returning from Pembroke, all I’ve been thinking about since is how I could have done things differently. It’s hard to verbalise, especially because everyone reacts to fear differently, but it mainly involves a different mental preparation/approach.

During my time in Pembroke I felt disheartened yet now I feel renewed with motivation and psyche to get my head back on! I’m hoping its going to be a good summer. 🙂

Another Pemby Sunset

Another Pemby Sunset

  1. To answer my earlier question – yes – I need a mental challenge to keep me coming back for more. The essence of trad climbing for me is learning how to deal with fear – which is why it is such a stimulating activity.


Since Pembroke I have climbed two routes which I have found fairly challenging, and, (enjoyably) I was able to try hard with minimal fear. I think a common factor between these routes (pictured below) was that both were sustained rather than cruxy and with bomber gear. Perhaps that’s what I need right now.

Finding the knee-jam no-hands rest on Forked Lightening Crack. Photo: Tim Newton

Finding the knee-jam no-hands rest on Forked Lightening Crack, Heptonstall. Photo: Tim Newton

Fab day at Gogarth with Anna. This one is Supercrack at Easter Island Gully. Worth seeking out!


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