Friday, March 26, 2010

First Ascent


Some mornings you rise before the dawn and it feels as if your blood has solidified in its veins and arteries and you'll shatter if you bend.

On these mornings the fluidity needed to climb seems more remote than the possibility that your blood has itself turned to stone.

But you know in the monkey part of your brain that if you simply get ready by rote and get to the bottom of the crag, the familiar blend of fear and excitement will melt your blood.

The warm sun of the inevitably west-facing sandstone cliff will energise you, as if you were a reptile or photosynthesising like a flower, and you will become supple of limb and subtle of mind.

You will jangle and clink to the start of the journey, trailing your umbilical cord and with one chalked hand on the first hold of the first route of the day, the electricity of the living cliff will jolt you Frankenstein-like into the monster that you become when you climb.

That monster will roar inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) as you daintily tear down the distances to the top of the cliff, crimp by crimp, hold by hold and jam by jam.

And as you rise upwards, transformed into a dweller of the vertical plane, all of the badness of life so far will be washed away by the thick syrup of adrenalised sweat that gushes from your pores.

Even on that first route of the day, you are adding more dance steps to your constantly expanding repertoire of steps in the perpendicular dance.

When you reach the top and regain your human form, the first-hand sensations of the climb already fading and draining like water down a plughole, the poetry that your wrote as you climb will be replaced by inadequate words, an addict's jitters and the 1000-yard stare of one who has been at war with himself.