On Tuesday night I made a prediction that the next day, Wednesday, would be forever known as crushing Wednesday because we would all be going out and the forest would be getting a spanking. Little did I know just how right I was, for everyone.

Wednesday lunchtime we headed to Gecko, via Isatis for a quick a warm up. Whilst there we found Neil, who’d just sent one of his long held ambitions, Megawatt. Crushing Wednesday had begun. We were all feeling good. Light, lithe, full of energy and the rocks did their part by feeling grippy, dry, and in condition.

Upon arrival at Gecko Ty declared it the most grippy it had ever been. This served to do two things; 1. It got us all ever more ultra pumped up to crush it and 2. It put on a small amount of pressure because I knew today I could definitely climb it if I remained in control of my body whilst on the rock. I spent 10 minutes setting up the cameras, whilst Ty spent 10 minutes warming up and brushing. As soon as the cameras were set, he was ready to go, and he proceeded to float up the problem. Often when I’m filming someone I’m looking through the viewfinder, and in many ways that feels like I haven’t really watched the ascent. This time I watched him climb and after seeing him do the 3rd move I would have put all my savings on him doing it that go. Something was different, and whatever it was enabled him to just keep on going, cruising upwards and topping out. It was really nice to see and only served as a kick in the butt for me. Crushing Wednesday continued.

I got on with it, started warming up, and was soon feeling pretty good. The only problem was that we weren’t alone at the block. There were 5 of us there already, and the first couple of holds were getting greasy (as they are common to both Gecko Assis and Les Beaux Quartiers). It wasn’t a make or break situation, but it felt like it wasn’t helping. I had one very good go where I was well into the stand up, but a simple foot move went wrong and my foot came off the rock. I tried desperately hard to compress on the nothing holds but it was no good, and I was earthbound. Soon after another few people arrived at the bloc. I kept trying but the holds weren’t faring well and a small amount of frustration was creeping in. I had a certain image in my mind of what it would be like when I topped out on this boulder. Not so much the emotional or mental response I expected from myself, but the actual physical conditions that would lead to an ascent. I could almost see it in my head, and for some reason the scene I saw was one of me there alone. I don’t know why that is, but for some reason I expected to do this boulder on my own, with only the forest and perhaps the odd boar for company. As I looked around at the throng of people here I knew this was a different scenario. But I also knew that I could still climb it if I concentrated and put all my energy into doing it. I still felt good and no excuses about the crowd should have allowed me to feel anything but psyched. I made more tried but had no success. Soon after another couple of people arrived and I pretty much gave up the fight. I did have another few goes and still felt like all I needed was a bit of luck to draw me upwards, but it never came. Conditions on Gecko were still amazing, but the starting holds had deteriorated. I pulled on to the stand start out of frustration and topped out with a desperate feeling of disappointment. I wanted to be there from the sit, not the stand. After walking down I gave up. I still felt strong and thought that if I quit strong I would be able to return the next day and crush it like I should have done today. Crushing Wednesday ended- with me being crushed.

Thursday morning the sky was blue and conditions looked just as good. We left for the crag, post lunch, and after another warm up at Isatis, I said goodbye to the boys and left on my own to Gecko. Was my vision really correct? Would I really do it on my own? Why did I even want to conform to this strange and ill understood vision? I got up there feeling ok. My warm had been ok, even if the skin of my right hand was feeling a little thin. I set up and got stuck in. My warm up moves didn’t go well. The tips of my right hand felt monstrously thin, and when I asked them to pull as hard as they could they answered with a perplexed look. I really thought I’d stopped strong the day before, but this pudding was turning out to be very ill tasting. Conditions were amazing however and this was gently ushering me forwards, whilst the pain of holding on was pulling me constantly back. I knew I only needed one good go to fight through the moves and establish myself at the stand start, then hoped the autopilot would kick in and carry me to the top. It didn’t happen and I fell on the transition moves from sit to stand, a place I never usually fall off. My tips were burning and I was faced with a horrible situation. If I could deal with the pain for just one more go I could make it to the top. If I could just go into “crush mode” I could get this thing done today. I tried again and my heel came off, along with my temper. A scream of frustration made me realise just what was going on and I sat down for a little moment with myself. I was here, beneath one of the hardest and greatest things I’d ever tried, and wanted to do it so much (perhaps too much). I knew topping out was so achievable, but the level of frustration I felt when my heel ripped off was not good. It was a sign that I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I’d fallen prey to setting my eyes on the top and forgotten, once again, about how much fun I should have been having. I could imagine nothing worse than getting to the top after feeling such frustration. The feeling of topping out would certainly have been far less sweet than if I’d managed to do it on a day where frustration was a distant and unknown factor. After releasing all my frustration I decided I could only do two things, either leave or try my very hardest to break through and fight to the top with joy, rather than frustration, as my fuel. I attempted to pull on to do some of the moves and I literally couldn’t take my feet off the floor. My skin was far too thin and there was nothing I could do but detach myself from my desire. It wasn’t going to happen today and I knew it. I was perhaps a little disappointed in that moment, but I was happy that I’d understood just what was going on.

Failure is only failure if you fail to learn anything from the failure. I’d not failed today, I’d simply not gotten to the top. It seems to me that there is more to be learnt in failure than there is to be learnt in success. Success is the sweet tasting desert which gives nothing but pleasure. It’s rare that people take a moment to stop and break down their feelings of success, to analyse and fully understand the process that has delivered them to that point. But failure is a different beast and how one deals with it marks the difference between long term success or long term disappointment. In many ways, failure can lead to more understanding than is often gleaned from success. I’m not happy to fail on Gecko, but I am happy to understand the nature of the failure and use it as a platform for improvement.

Being so close to doing a long held goal or ambition is a funny state to be in. Having the prize dangled in front of you with seemingly nothing in your way is certainly alluring, and saying no thanks without regret is a hard thing to do. I didn’t want to get up and go home, I wanted to just keep fighting, but it would have been both stupid and foolish. I wasn’t in the right physical or mental shape. I was shocked at the level of frustration I’d felt when my heel ripped off, but I was happy to have understood and dispelled it. Being fuelled by frustration is a waste of time as it will never lead to a deep satisfaction. Perhaps my vision will come true and I will ascend it alone, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. I want to make my ascent when I’m feeling great, when I will taste nothing but joy and elation. I know it will come at some point and I can understand so clearly why patience is regarded as a virtue. I have love for rock climbing, I really do, and where there is love there is always time. I packed up, made my peace with the boulder, and left.