Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Serpentine Saga

After finally nailing my project on the east coast I felt as strong as ever. Having the Alaska trip fall through meant that I was super psyched and had some time up my sleeves for a quick mission to the Grampians. Every climber that’s been to the Grampians or Arapiles has heard of the mighty Taipan Wall. The first thing you learn about Taipan is that there’s an amazing turret rising up the middle with the route Serpentine blasting up the centre.



When I first started rock-climbing I heard all about this route. As a beginner it was the ultimate, the stuff dreams are made of. As soon as I laid eyes on the route I knew I would climb it one day. Four years went past, climbing all over the world in all different styles. Never did I ever feel strong enough to give the route a serious attempt till the start of the year. This was one dream I had to try! So I packed my bags for a two week trip and was soon sitting on the plane next to Grug. Psyche levels were at an all-time high!!

Danny picked us up from the airport and we were soon west-bound on the train. Before long we were driving past the amazing orange walls of the Hollow Mountain amphitheatre. I made my way to Stapylton campground to see who was keen to hit up the amazing rock on Taipan, Niels was. Having met Niels in Tasmania a few months prior, this was the perfect chance to climb with him. He had sent the route days before so had all the beta.

Next day saw me on the route. Feeling good on most of the moves I knew I had to get fitter for the sustained climbing up the headwall. Both of the two crux’s felt doable. Doing them from the start was a harder story. I spent a few days working sequences and learning some subtleties, all the while getting fitter. After the first week I was feeling good, a couple of close shots made it feel in the bag. Then my brain kicked.


“You’ve got to be able to take it or leave it, then you take it.”
- Danny



I started putting pressure on myself and over thinking things. I wanted this route so bad that I couldn’t relax and enjoy the experience. Too focused on the end goal I started psyching myself out and seeing all the reasons I could fail, not the other way around. Every time I pulled on I was either over-gripping, or not relaxing enough to let the climbing flow. This desire led to ultimately failing and not doing the route. My last shot, in freezing winds and drizzle I fell four moves from the top. Another hand move and I would have made the final hand jam rest.

Desire is a funny thing. Without it, it can be hard to get out of bed. Too much however will ultimately lead to failure or worse. This trip taught me a lot about the emotion and how to deal with it in my own mind. I have a lot of burning desire in my heart. When this expresses itself in the right way it has led me to do beautiful great things that will always last in my memory. When it turns ugly however, and becomes desire for the wrong reasons I’ve failed. that’s happened to me a few times. It happened at Mt Buffalo and I bailed. On Mt Cook I turned around on a solo attempt. In all these experiences there was one key theme. The climbing became something I was doing for other people. With impure motives my desire took control and led me to failure. Wanting to be that guy who does the hardest shit I wasn’t prepared to fail, I couldn’t take it or leave it, and that always means leaving it.

We live in a society that tells you not to try. You live in your nice house in the suburbs that you're entitled to. Your white picket fence keeps you safely inside your comfort zone, where no-one can come in and tell you what you should be doing. You think this is happiness. Fuck that. When Jessica Watson made it known she was going to sail around the world solo, people told her not to. Words like danger, death and risk were tossed about in the media by people who have no idea about any of these things. They all made the same assumption, that a placid, long life within the picketed comfort zone is better. How is that better? Living a long robotic life, adding little to this world, always scared to know yourself or letting your dreams surface and see the light of day. Your life, your choice.


“Disobey. Defy. Take your own time. Fly.” - Anne Clark


The acceptance that failure is an option that’s not a bad outcome is central to the idea of the spiritual and emotional growth that all adventurers are seeking. My greatest moments, the times when I was king of this life, were when I could honestly succeed or fail. Knowing all the while that I was growing throughout the journey and that the contrived destination didn’t matter. That the end point would be the saddest part of the experience as I came to realise that the journey was over.

On serpentine I was so focused on the end result. Wanting to be that cool guy who’s sent the route and that somehow makes me cool. Hindsight is a beautiful yet brutal thing. I was that wanker climbing on Taipan for everyone else. Feeling the need to prove myself to people that already accepted me for being me. Writing this in hindsight is painful. If only I could have listened to my reason and seen that I should have learnt these lessons long ago. I guess it just proves the idea of life as a classroom. But I don’t ever want to graduate, this shit is WAY too much fun.



So for now I’m going to work my bum off and focus my energies on the things that are important to me. There’s a few plans on the cards, but they wont be laid on the table just yet. More thought needs to go into them.


A massive thanks to both Niels and Josh, for reminding me what’s important.

2 comments:

Rob Baker said...

good stuff Simon. great bit of writing.

Dot said...

Simon, that was excellent, moving.

Brother, with or without your send, you honoured us with your company for those two weeks. And that's the truth! We still talk about and miss you... but it's not gay. :)

Come on, motherfucker, come on!!

I look forward to reading about your future adventures and hopefully sharing a few more with you in person.
Right on.