Milestones: Leaving The Rescue Team

This is part seven of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

Due to the delicate nature of Rescue, i have very few photos and those i do have i’d prefer not to add. As such, this is going to be an exclusively text based post. If you want to see the type of thing the Ogwen team get up to, check out their Facebook page

Leaving the Rescue Team

I’d always said i wanted to join a rescue team one day and when Ken Dwyer, a stalwart of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team and good friend and colleague, sadly passed away, there was no voice left to dissuade me.  Instead, words of encouragement could be found in regulars and team members coming into the shop. With the words of an ex ringing in my ears regarding giving something back to the community, i filled in my blue form and applied.

There was scepticism, not least from myself with my prowess on trad climbs less than impressive, but i was rightly told if i don’t try, i’ll never know. So try it i did.

It ate my time but please don’t take that as a complaint. As well as attending some 45 callouts during my time on the team, i was present at almost every Wednesday night training session over the eighteen months of my trainee-ship and could often be found at base on weekends, training, learning and trying to learn the ropes. However, as time went by, my lack of exposure to exposure was exposed as the problem it was.

Technical climbing wasn’t a problem and i worked well as a packhorse – able to lug heavy loads quickly up the hill. The problem came on the bit in between: the loose, scrambley ground with low risk of problem but high consequence if i did have a slip. With bouldering, the consequence is normally minimal but the risk of failure and falling incredibly high – that’s kinda the point! Yet i couldn’t shake this when up on the mountains and accept that while the drop was huge, nothing was going to go wrong.

I tried. I enjoyed being a team member so much, i wasn’t going to walk away that easily, and i started going on multi-pitch mountain routes fairly regularly. I hated it but i had no choice: don’t go and i’m off the team. Those i climbed with were understanding and supportive like you couldn’t believe and i thank every one of them for their help. The hard fact is, though, that it didn’t work.

I reached a crossroads. At a meeting some six months after my inadequacies were brought to light, i was in a meeting to assess how it was going. I could have bluffed my way through, blamed extenuating circumstances and kidded not only them but myself that i could carry on but i knew it would only be a matter of time before it all came back to haunt me. One exposed scramble could put me in a very tight spot.

I reluctantly left the team, although on very good terms and with nothing but friends. Again, the support was immense and the door has been left for my potential return in years to come.

It was then, in November 2014, that i decided to finally give up on trad climbing. Something finally dawned on me that should’ve been obvious as far back as 2003: if you don’t like it, don’t do it. With that epiphany, and a sudden surge of available time, i threw my focus entirely on the discipline i truly love.

The timing worked well, right at the start of the aggregate, and i began to get much stronger. Other factors played a part but the weight off my mind from forsaking ropes and racks was key. Suddenly, i began to perform.

I do think that has led to a spike in my grade-graph since then. I loved my time on the rescue team and if i had my time again, would do exactly the same. I also plan to return one day but for now, i’m doing what i want to do. And it feels so good.

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