I started writing this post as a log of my recent winter climbing days, a measure of the time spent on my tools and front points and not hanging by the fingertips. But, it ended up being a completely different rambling. One that I quite enjoyed.
However, I do need to summarize the original intent of this post before I embark on that long ramble below. I spent a total of 17 days on tools so far in the past 10 months – 10 days on ice and 7 days on mixed. I have been climbing ice and mixed terrain for less than a year so far. Heck, forget a year, probably only a couple of months since I started drytooling.
Now most of the times, I tend to not talk about the early stumbles during my greenhorn days in any given activity. We all have a goal, a benchmark to meet in any activity we pursue. In climbing it could be a .12a, V10, M7, WI5, etc., etc. The more we chase some elusive benchmark, the more we refrain from talking about all the learning, progression and the wonderful experiences that happens before reaching that self-imposed arbitrary benchmark.
In my case, I don’t know if it is the ego raising it’s ugly head or something else, but the very process of learning and growing seems to fade away with all my focus being on the outcome. And it is an unfortunate attitude towards things; but one that has been thankfully changing for the better over the past few years.
I have my own benchmarks for ice and mixed climbing. And it is fair to say that these benchmarks are not achievable in a span of 17 days. Well, if they were to be achieved, these would not be worthy of being benchmarks at all. Given this, I really do not feel an urge to talk about it. But, at some level, I really did experience immense joy and a sense of gratification over the course of these 17 days.
I led ice on my 4th day of swinging tools ever. That was in the Rockies. I did not own any tools then, so back home on the Coast, the ice season was pretty much over. Now 9 months later, on the Coast again, I have spent 5 days on ice, and led about 10 pitches, including a bail from a WI 4 (I ran out of screws!). Again, at this stage in my progression, that number grade gives me happiness, but is definitely below my benchmark. But, that should not be a reason to not be happy about it.
In fact, I am pretty well aware that these arbitrary benchmarks always reside in the future, never in the present. The instant you think you achieved one, it just slips out of the grasp and is pushed further in the future, most likely at the next level of progression. And this cycle continues, till all the joy and gratification is sucked out of the very pursuit that in some distant past bestowed immense joys in the simple act of doing.
Not only this results in frustration, but also makes us discount the lovely company of those who held the other end of the rope and egged us on to perform better. They certainly deserve better than us throwing tantrums for flailing or chickening out on a given route.
I believe that climbing and mountaineering as an activity means so much more to me than just the act of reaching a milestone. It is a sum experience of the objective, myself and the partners who accompany me on that objective. Take anyone factor out of the equation and the entire experience is reduced to nothing but futility.
So while I continue on this protracted ramble, it would be a mockery of all my wonderful friends and acquaintances who have been gracious enough to hold the rope, move the pads, give me beta, encouragement or just be present while I continued on my otiose climbing pursuits. This also serves as a good exercise for me to recount the wonderful memories from the distant past and express a bucket-load of gratitude towards all these lovely individuals.
- Dad – For kindling and nurturing a love for the hills and outdoors in general ever since my toddler days.
- Prajakta – Thanks for being there, always, when I am absent. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say I climb because of you.
- Bong, Franco and Arun – For letting me know there is something called as rock climbing that exists!
- Aaron & Ryan – Setting those wonderful routes and problems at the Edge Rock!
- Jimmy – For showing me the ropes! Can still remember Ankles Away, my first sport lead outside ever.
- Mat – Can’t say enough about all the fun we had climbing and training ever since I have moved to Canada. Look forward to more!
- Mark – For being outrageously strong, kind and humble at the same time. And yes, thanks for climbing with me in Squamish during my early days out here.
- Kaivalya – For exposing me to the possibilities in Sahyadri and Himalayan ranges.
- Patrick – For climbing with me and showing my some of the classic routes during my early days of Squamish climbing.
- Ankit – Thanks for all the belays and your unwavering zest in trying to convert me into a ‘slab’ climber!
- Shashi – Your dedication and meticulous approach is quite impressive and influential. Climbing with you always feel measured and assuring.
- Bala, Lily, Raph – Always a pleasure climbing with you all. Bluffs in the summer were amazing.
- Jesse – I never searched for partners online, for all the good reasons. But when I ran out of options, I did recently and I am super glad that I did. It’s been a pleasure to share the rope with you so far. I have done my first dry tool lead on your belay.
- Gaurang – From Mumbai to Vancouver, it’s been a pleasure to share experiences with you for all things climbing and beyond.
- Jay – Thanks for all the lessons and advice during my time in the Canadian Rockies.
And then there are tons of other friends who have been helpful, patient, caring or influential or all at the same time. I could not possibly mention and thank each and everyone of them, but if you do read this and have been out there with me, I am extending my sincere appreciation and gratitude for your time and support.