Monday, 15 March 2010

The Headmaster's Lesson

Bouldering on The Ship in Torridon last weekend. Here's me dancing with my shadow while trying the first move of The Mission for the 400th time. Photo: Richie Betts

Murdo doing battle with Malcolm's Arete

Back in the mists of time my old headmaster, Mr Kirkup, would often end his rousing motivational assemblies with the mantra “remember, it’s cool to be keen”. You had to respect his hopeful attempts to get us to knuckle down and work hard, but the truth remained that being a geek wasn’t going to get the cool kids to like you. No matter how many times you solved for x in Maths or Sylvia Plath poems you dissected in English or one-drop end-point titrations you achieved in Chemistry, if you didn’t wear the right clothes or have the right hair style or listen to the right music the immovable tide of peer pressure would label you uncool. No questions asked.

Nowadays things are a bit different and Mr Kirkup has been proven right. It really is cool to be keen. In the world I inhabit, keenness means you’ll train more, run faster, pull harder. You’ll be willing to get out of bed at 2 in the morning to be first on the route or to bag a second route that day. You’ll want to raise your game and try to overcome harder, longer, bigger hurdles. You’ll be willing to gamble.

With the headmaster’s advice echoing round my head Richie and I drove from the sunshine of Inverness into the dark maelstrom of the West yesterday morning. The further we went, the darker the sky became and inevitably the windscreen wipers morphed from an intermittent twitch into a hypnotic blur. The drive west with a bad forecast is a true test of the keen and the faithful, and many times our dedication was tried. Passing through Garve, we prayed for a wormhole to open and allow access to a sun drenched coast, but no, the mist swirled and the rain poured. Turning left at Braemore Junction, surely we had shown enough tenacity to be granted some blue sky, but no, more rain. Then finally, on reaching Gruinard Bay the Guardians of the North West took pity and made the rain stop long enough to walk to the crag in the dry. And what did we find?

Only that our respective projects were almost the only dry lines at the crag; our dedication had paid off. In obeisance we set to work, me on Warm Up, Richie on Black Sox; traversing to warm cold fingers then dogging up to put the clips in. Then, the moment of truth, the moment when all the thinking and preparing and training gets put aside and you have to show yourself for what you really are. Do you really have what it takes to climb this? Are you just kidding yourself? Now we’ll all see.

Richie on Black Sox (F7c+) a few weeks prior to his recent success. Photo: Ian Taylor

A previous attempt on Warm Up (F7b). Photo: Ian Taylor

And yes, we both came home successful. Thanks Mr Kirkup.

Richie is a happy bunny.

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