Wall Maps of Inspiration

I’m really sad in so many respects, but the one that really keeps coming up is my wall map. Since I was a student, I’ve had a map of Britain on my wall in my room, though to be honest, what possessed me to do this in the first place has long since left my failing memory. It was a nice conversation starter with passing students in halls, who’d always love to come and point out where they lived (although very few ever stayed for too long after that, much to my dismay).

Later it became very handy, as I travelled the country for climbing trips, seeing friends or even giving directions to others who were equally as unsure as to whether to use the M60 or M66 to get to Anglezarke. Then after one trip down to Torbay (from Lancaster!) In which I managed to drive almost the entirety of two of Britain’s longest motorways, I came across an idea. By this point, my map had developed from a cheap paper map to a large dry-wipe map from Ordnance Survey. So when I got back, I took a dry-wipe marker and coloured in the motorways I had driven since passing my test.

Now, if you think that’s the sad bit, since then, I’ve tried to expand on this, by adding a couple of rules and trying to tick off as many as I could. See, I’m not allowed to just go out to drive the missing sections; it’s got to be on the way somewhere. At least this way, I don’t feel so bad about my carbon footprint! However, it seems before a trip I would look at my map and chose a route that took in a little more motorway than before. It’s become trickier again now, as I don’t think I’ll be driving that missing piece of the M4 for a long time, but c’est la vie, there’s plenty of time.

Now, this year, I invested in a similar big map, this time of Europe. There are no motorways on the new one but it has led me to another idea. After much talking with friends in the shop, it’s become apparent that there are so many places I would still love to go: Cresciano, Val di Mello, Frankenjura to name but a few! So, next week, I will be investing in some small sticky dots to mark the designated spots that I so desperately want to go.

Now, at this point, assuming you haven’t already become bored at the blatant ramblings of an idiot, let me explain how this relates to climbing. See, there are literally hundreds of crags that we all have in mind of visiting, at home, in Europe and indeed further a field (my world map is on my Christmas list…) and it can be quite a minefield to try and organise these trips. At least this way, hopefully I can gather some clarity and figure out how to get there, the best mode of transport, etc.

A lot of people use tick lists for places they want to go, often in excel, which get stored on a hard drive somewhere and rarely looked at. With this in mind, I’ve managed to concoct a system which forces me to keep thinking about it, keep dreaming and planning, even if they never actually happen. With a visual aspect to it, I can more easily decide where my next trip will be by time allowed, numbers of people and so on.

Looking back over the last page, I realise I don’t really have a point, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you go out and buy a wall map now! However, since I was very young, I’ve always dreamed of seeing the world, going to places far away and experiencing the culture. I’m sure at my parents house, tucked away somewhere are still my pages of logistics that I would dream away. They’ve long since been forgotten, replaced with new ideas and new destinations. With my new system, I’m keeping these fresh in the memory and not losing that drive to experience.

I read a lot of articles, books and general climbing tales and the dream is often the common theme: the desire to be someone, or go somewhere, or even experience something that no other person has done. Jerry Moffatt wanted to be the best, Stefan Glowacz wanted to get to these destinations by his own merit and using his own steam, and almost every classic climbing book written (with some notable exceptions) is based around the idea of a first ascent. The author, producer, whoever, is fascinated with their dream, encompassed by it, often letting it take over their life and I sometimes think it is this that separates the first ascentionists and true explorers from the rest. True, there are always other aspects that will come into it, not least ability, skill level, confidence, the list is endless but there is always that desire and drive to experience.

You too will have had a dream, at some point. No-one may know what it is, be it a first ascent of a big wall far off from civilisation or simply a desire to actually go and see what all the fuss is about in Yosemite, but a dare say that many of those dreams will have gone forgotten, buried deep in the back of your mind. Realise those ambitions, remember those places you wanted to go, things you wanted to do and make it happen, anything is possible if you want it enough.

December 2009

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