83 is the smallest prime number which is the sum of a prime number of consecutive primes in a prime number of different ways.

The font bonanza has finally found closure. I’m booked to return on May 14th, back to my own bed, my own board, and a million other jobs that need taking care of. This leaves about 10 days to finish off the “to before I leave” list which consists mainly of things I’ve had a couple of goes on (usually to warm up) but then not done. It’s not yet time to start reflecting on this trip, and assessing the up’s, the down’s, the physical failures, the mental successes, and then beginning to plan the next step. I’ll do all that in 10 days time when I’ve left font.

As I wrote in a previous post, things here are either very hot or very wet. I managed 5 minutes climbing at St. Germain 2 days ago before it began pouring with rain as I walked off the top of the Megalithe boulder only having done Megalight, 7B. I’d really wanted to try Megalithe, 7C+, but once again the rain was stopping any chance of that. We huddled in, waiting for the rain to stop, for the rock to dry, and both things happened. But the second the rock became just about climbable another grey cloud rolled in and ended our time at the rocks. It was quite amusing actually, like some bad comedy sketch.

Yesterday was pretty hot and in the evening Neil and I headed down to Gorge du Houx. I’d gotten psyched to try Londinium, 8A, and also de la terre et la lune, 7C+. The car was registering around 20C on the way there but I was still hopeful that some magic was occuring so the rock would be cool and grippy. It’s not a long walk in, but not short, and by the time we got to Gargantoit,7A+, we were sweating like rabid wolves. I did some jug traverse to get some blood in my fingers (and to compound the sweat) then decided to do Gargantoit. It looked simple enough and I’d seen a video of someone climbing it (which always makes things appear simple). First go, I crossed over to the highest part of the right arete and the hold was wet/greasy or something. I nearly slid straight off, but managed to grip on, reverse a move or two, and try to wipe my hand on my trousers. It didn’t work, so when I reached back up it was even worse, and I elected to let go rather than slip off, breaking my back on the rocks below. I brushed the holds before my next go, asked Neil to spot me, and then managed to get to the top. It’s a really cool feature, somewhat ruined by the landing behind it, and the lack of a topout. If there was another 2 metres of arete climbing on top it would be mega! Anyway, I’d made it look sufficiently sketchy that Neil decided to pass. Next on the warm up list was L’arete, 7A+. I’d seen a video of this too, so it looked easy, and easily flashable. I tried the sequence I’d seen but found the positions a violation of the laws of physics. It just didn’t make any sense, unless it was cool perhaps, but I found a way around it, utilising the fact I can do one armers and one of the small crimps on the right. It’s a nice enough problem but once again not particularly satisfying. That seems to be a recurring theme at the moment, a lack of satisfaction upon reaching the top of boulder problems. From there I walked down to Londinium,8A, rather unsure of how it would feel. It is certainly a mega line and I think that I would be very satisfied if I got to the top, but that didn’t happen. The first hold felt ridiculously greasy but luckily I hadn’t fallen off on my first couple of tries. I also ended up utilising my signature knee to even get on to the rock! It’s certainly the first time I’ve used a knee to get on the rock as opposed to using it to top out. I was getting to the point where you have to match the two sidepulls, but the one go I felt super comfy and had all the holds right but Neil wasn’t spotting and I had no one pulling the mat underneath me, so couldn’t do the slap up and right. I assumed I’d be able to get back up there easily, but it wasn’t to be. I greased out of the first hold taking off skin from the tops of my fingers and after that I began to wane. It’s a mega line and should have been higher up on my list, but it is something that requires a few pads or a decent spotter. It’s certainly on the life long list and will probably be on the short list when I return later in the year. I was feeling rather exhausted, partly from the heat, but also because I’m generally tired at the moment. Anyway, I went for a quick burn on De la Terre a la Lune, 7C+. I don’t know why but decided to use a great looking sequence involving one arm pirouettes, which doesn’t make much sense unless you’ve seen/tried the problem. It’s a wonderful looking piece of rock and I made it to the last move but I was just too low on extra reserves of power to make up for the fact I was greasing off like WD-40 in a pan of teflon, in the oven at 200C. I sick of going on about these bad conditions though, so I’ll shut up about it for the time being. It’s also why I’m getting out of here. There is no point trying to climb, but getting frustrated at the bad conditions, so I should really utilise my time more wisely which means heading home and training.

You read the short version of my thoughts on passion in the last blog, but since it’s about 25C outside right now I have nothing to do other than excrete all my thoughts. The reason I arrived at the conclusion that passion is the underpinning for greatness was by trying to assess why some achieve and some don’t. I tend to browse the climbing websites a lot, trying to read about who is doing what/where, because I’m genuinely interested in finding out. Obviously news items tend to be about good/strong climbers doing great things, and it made me wonder why those particular individuals are the ones in the news. Not so much why are they in the news, but why are they the ones achieving greatness instead of some other guy/girl. What prompts someone to keep going, to keep moving forward, striving to reach the next level. Why do some people have the urge and others don’t? Sheffield has a lot of climbers in it, who cover a great spectrum of abilities from absolute beginner, to punter, to pro. Having lived there for a while and seen the scene it served as good knowledge when it came to my current train of thought regarding achievements. What separates your 7A wall climber from the top guys in Sheffield? The first answer I came up with was time. Time since beginning climbing, in experience, and time actually spent climbing (as an investment for improvement). Those who have been climbing longer tend (the important word) to be at a higher level than those who have only just begun. But there are some people who have many years experience but still operate at a mid/low level. Why is that? Likely it is because they don’t invest time in climbing to improve. Why not? Usually because they have a job/life/commitments that causes their time to be subdivided and climbing can’t/won’t rank as number 1 priority. But time is something you do have control over, and something you can choose to divide as you like. We are all products of the decisions we have made, consciously or not.  I’ve always believed, and still do, that if you want something enough then you will find a way to make it happen. I’m sure some people will disagree with me, which is fine, but that is my personal belief. So the next question I was left with was regarding why some people invest time in climbing instead of other things. As a side note, not long ago I asked my girlfriend what she would prefer, to climb one 8C bloc or 50 8A blocs. The grades aren’t especially important, but serve as a reference whereby 8C is top level and 8A is average/good level. She chose the 50 8A option and I was actually shocked. For me the answer was clearly the single 8C. This gave me even more food for thought regarding all this stuff. Perhaps if you asked a group of climbers “Do you want to climb 8A bloc?”, I think the answer would be an almost unanimous yes. Of course there are those who climb simply as a leisure activity but that is a whole new kettle of fish to fit into this framework. Most people could climb font 8A but they might have to sacrifice their other social commitments, work commitments, or leisure activities. Is this cost worth the reward? This is clearly a question that only the individual can answer, but how is the answer formed? What questions are asked in order to find the answer to that question? ha ha. What a funny sentence. Once you begin to gain some distance from climbing, as something you love to do, it becomes more abstract, and in that way no different to any other pursuit. In that way it can be analysed in the same way that any other pursuit can be analysed, and the question of why do some people succeed whilst others fail becomes (perhaps) simpler to answer. So why do some people reach the top and some others don’t? In economics there is something called satisficing, which is the notion whereby a process attempts to achieve at least some minimum level of a particular variable, but which does not necessarily maximize its value. From my own experiences in climbing, and in life, this is the general modus operandi that dominates people’s lives. I’ve never been particularly comfortable with the notion of satisficing as it doesn’t sit well with me. I’m more inclined to look at life, climbing, and other pursuits, as utility maximization problems. How can I gain the most utility from the time I have? I’m desperate to seek an optimal strategy that gives me the maximum return for the resources I have available. Actually, I think this is a defining feature of who I am. Then I can answer the question about success/failure as the optimal/non optimal strategies in life. Those who succeed in their field, from pilots to ninjas, from doctors to builders, are those who find an optimal strategy. Those who satisfice are never going to reach the top. Needless to say this isn’t easy for anyone to do, but I’m constantly trying to learn from those who are at the top. In climbing it’s about seeing all the top guys, seeing how they train, how they adapt, and how they improve faster and more efficiently. Obviously this is nigh on impossible to do because who has access to the daily lives of top climbers? Certainly not I. I want to find the point at which I can longer improve. I long for the day that I think, it’s not possible to pull any harder or to have more body tension. I once heard a tale about Willenburg being able to do sets of 10 one armers on each arm, repeatedly, without stopping. I would love to be able to move to a place where the strong guys trained, to learn from them, and to apply it to my own climbing. I wish I had someone who could help me train, give me knowledge that I know I lack.  Ultimately, climbing is just an outlet for the process I’m trying to achieve. It’s lucky because I love climbing, but if I didn’t have climbing I’m sure I would be trying to achieve this same process in some other discipline. The thing that pushes me to strive on is the passion. Passion to find my limit, to challenge myself every day, to not rest because life is short and I need to maximise my resources. I’m also lucky because I genuinely enjoy this process. Not only does the process bring me joy but so does the end result (if there is indeed such a thing).

I think that is why I am getting a bit frustrated with being in font right now. I’m not progressing and I’m not being optimal. I need to get back to a situation that will allow me to start progressing again, one where I feel like I’m actually making use of my time, not greasing off hot holds and wasting skin for no appreciable reason.

I apologise for all these ramblings and I appreciate they may not be very clear. It’s just that they are the ramblings of a man, a climber, with many questions unanswered and a strong desire to have them answered.