It can be easy sometimes to not see the wood for the trees. To spend so much time in nature that you develop a small blindspot to it’s natural wonder and beauty. This would never happen if I was at a new crag or cliff but sometimes in the local spots you visit 3 or 4 times a week, it can be easy to forget to stop, look around and really take it in like you did the first time you saw it. Being on The Burren for instance, is an integral part of both my working and personal climbing life. And the drive to The Burren can sometimes feel a little like a short “commute” rather than a scenic drive.
Work has been busy lately and as a consequence, the main road from Ennistymon to the coast road has been travelled quite a bit. Friday past I had my days work done and with the stretch in the evenings and the recent good weather, I realised I had time to fit in a decent bouldering session in Doolin.
So I hopped in the van and pulled out of the driveway, but something happened that made me stop and think. Instead of turning right towards the main road I decided to turn left and take the back roads over the hill and into Doolin, rolling a theory around in my mind and wondering how it might transpire.
On the drive out there I theorized that taking a slightly more awkward drive, one with lots of narrow roads where I’d have to pull over for other traffic often and where it would be impossible to rush, that I would hopefully arrive at the bouldering area more relaxed, uplifted by the insane views of west Clare from the top of the hill and hopefully open to better problem solving.
I had a plan in mind for when I got to Lackglass. I wasn’t going to try anything too hard but instead revisit problems I’ve done lots of times before, but with the intention of climbing them this time with perfect movement and fluidity. A solo mission, with a focus, in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The first part of the plan worked, I stopped a few times on the drive to soak it all in. With it being clear and sunny I could see as from the cliffs of Moher to the Bens in Galway and everything in between, perfect swell peeling right off Crab Island and the Aran Islands across the sea in front of me.
Already the plan was feeling like a success. I was enjoying this immense natural vista as if seeing it for the first time again. Albeit from inside a car. Part two of the plan involved more of a physical reconnect.
It’s funny, I had spent the week around rocks and cliffs, from the volcanic ash of the Killary crags to the limestone of The Burren, but I’d been working and not playing on it. There’s a huge difference between telling someone else how to move on rock and getting on it yourself.
My plan had also removed any pressure that we sometimes put ourselves under. I wasn’t there to try really hard on a project, I was there to try really hard at getting better. Both involve repetitive failure, but the latter is a different type of failure. A more welcome one maybe.
So I warmed up and got on some traverses on Kostyas wall. Remarking to myself that these were the first outdoor problems I ever got on, close to a decade previous to now. And here I was now using them as practice for improvement rather than obsessed with just getting to the top out.
Some time went by, maybe an hour. Big waves crashes behind me on the flat reefs and the heat of the sun cooled a little as the day got older. Wondering what to get my teeth into I remembered a link up traverse problem that my friend Cian made up about 5 years ago. I’d always disliked it a bit because he could do it most attempts and I would always gas out at the crux, body tension waning as feet and hands were spread wide on holds that were small and sharp. I was sure id done it then, but actually couldn’t be sure, in the way that i sometimes might not be too bothered remembering whether you had success or joy on a link up eliminate (slightly contrived) traverse. Maybe I was just sore that he could top it and I couldn’t.
But 5 years is a long time in climbing, I was physically not as strong as then, when all I did for a summer was boulder, but I was definitely climbing much smarter now. Surely with guile I could remove the difficulty. Surely?
I love techy traverse boulder problems and I love figuring out the beta that suits me. I love bouldering. I love Doolin and the West of Clare. I love movement on rock and intense concentration. I love it when a plan comes together.
Topping out on Cians amazing, completely not contrived at all, link up traverse problem last friday evening, using my new “smarter climber” beta was one of the best feelings I’ve had on rock lately. A total reconnect to why I love climbing and being in nature and to the addictiveness of accessing a flow state. A reminder of what I value most.