2017 had started in a very good way. On a freezing and sunny early January's morning, I found myself going to a new, for me, bouldering area. Eyes on the prize, I managed to climb a 7c in a few goes and split a couple of fingers. With a migthy 4° in full sunshine and a crimpy roof, things do not come much better.
Fast forward a few months, in April I had climbed a four years old board project, something that I had sometimes thought I would never climb. Four years trying a problem that played to all my strengths, mean that it's probably quite hard and I felt it like a monumental achievement. Possibly the hardest thing I've ever climbed.
Then I made a mistake. I went back climbing. High temps, baby skin, lower back pain and other trivial excuses couldn't make up for a generally terrible climbing experience.
I repeated this mistake again and again until this past weekend, after which I decided to face the cold, hard truth: I have come to the end of my rock climbing career.
I have an enormous desire, a need perhaps, to perform. Possibly, to outperform others in terms of strength and power. But mostly to outperform my own self. I've come to this moment thinking that I would keep progressing despite age, work committments, injuries. And to some extent I have, but simply not on rock.
There is a gap, between what I can physically do in a safe environment, and what I can climb on rock, that is embarassing.
But most that anything else, I feel that I've come - close - to the end of my physical potential.
Two of my best weapons, that have granted me so many climbs, that is crimping and heel hooking, are no more such.
Crimping has become quite hard to bear, and at times unbearable. My fault, obviously. You can't spend session after session on front2 full crimps on the small BM edge without being handed a pricey bill at some time. Not if you're 45 years old, anyway. After boning down on some proper crimps, the upper side of my index fingers DIP joints gets so painful that it hurts to do simple, everyday's life tasks like using a fork or a knife, or twisting a car key. It is frankly terrifying. I think that, simply, the connective tissue between the bones has gone.
Heel hooking has become nearly impossible, for both the state of my knees and of my hamstrings. After a couple of serious heel hooks I start to limp, the pain becomes unbearable and I feel that, should I push on, something big and serious is going to break for good. After yesterday's heel hooking - four tries in total - today I can't bend my right knee past 90° without feeling a stinging pain and without the knee collapsing down.
Luckily, as I said, I can still perform: only, in the safe environment of my board, where heel hooks are impossible. Full crimps are still a problem though.
I need to get familiar with the fact that I can't climb hard on rock anymore.
I have my board, my BM, my various one arm edges, the Lattice Edge and so may other toys to enjoy. And I can enjoy them at their full potential, with a long and boring warm up, fans and air conditioning to make the best of the given conditions and a plethora of paraphernalia that I simply can't have out there on ze rocks.
Plus, physical problems aside, I don't know how to climb anymore. I've never been Mr. Technique, but fuck me, now things are ridiculous. I lost any movement fantasy and intuition, and all my climbing skills are: plant foot on small foothold; become a steel beam; get next positive hold. I can't move on anything else.
I get frustrated if I can't climb hard. And I don't like it.
It's been good, even great, until it lasted.
In the past, I had already understood that I was mainly a board climber and a trainer, but then I've had some good success on some hard things and this led me to think that maybe it wasn't over yet on rock.
I was wrong.
Climbing hard on rock now would involve so many complicated things that it's basically impossible: from the choice of a suitable problem, to the time to try it, to getting good conditions, to motivation.
I am a bit sad, but not so sad.
As long as I can climb, or keep trying, my board projects, progress on the dead hangs and move big amounts of iron, I am happy and I feel that I still have a lot to give.
I can now dedicate my full self to the most useless pursuit of Strength.