Some would suggest that the one holding the silver medal was the first to fail. If the goal was competition specific, then the assertion may hold true. However, while life may be a game, the rules are not rigid. There is no single purpose where losing should prevent you from enjoying another one. If you disagree then, please stop reading this now and train harder. You clearly don’t have time for opportunistic fun.
Disappointment when a plan crumbles is natural, but lingering on it is silly. Us climbing folk seem to fall easily into obsession, almost by default. The ‘send’ becomes all important, as if it were something more than a constructed gymnastic routine. The project or travel itineraries become paramount. The objective is utmost. Sure, it can be monumentally satisfying, I don’t deny this in the slightest. This is a primary joy-component of our sport. It drives and motivates us. The trick is to revel in it, while not despising its absence. Besides, every now and then second place is just so damn good!
This last weekend I was like a puffer fish: distended with enthusiasm to open a route I had cleaned months ago, before my body fell into disrepair. Hopefully my odor was less piscine, and my appearance less absurd. The target climb is wild, steep, aesthetic and other adjectives that trigger goose bumps. It was also long overdue: the baboon over the shoulder than needs to be shaken off. Those familiar with Slaapstad will know that winter can be atmospherically inconvenient for scaling stone. Sunday was a prime example. Right on the cusp: no rain to wash the program away, but ominous enough to be particularly unpleasant high on the hill. After extensive vacillation, we opted for Plan B. A tiny granite outcrop close to the road, good for a hasty escape lest the trade winds threatened to export us away.
I was not expecting much. A previous recce had left me rather ambivalent, and indeed the quantity was decidedly scant. Yet, a thin, and unexpectedly parallel crack yielded superior per meter satisfaction. We joked about being amateur Brits, going out in crap weather to play on miniature crags. Although to be honest, it was probably a stellar day in pommy terms. I giggled at perfect micro-cam placements. The mist swirled above, the ocean crashed below, and we were happy little piggies in the middle. A leafy green and granular grey oasis to be childish in. Maybe I was just in a good mood, but hot damn, second place was just so much fun! Or perhaps it was the consolation prize that made me happy. Or the great company. A backyard adventure-let sure beats remaining inside lamenting what could have been.
Now riddle this. Had we nabbed ‘first place’, I doubt I would ever have revisited these boulders. Since cliffs generally make a habit of staying put, I will soon be able to go back for my alpha allure. So, by ‘missing out’ this time, did I actually gain more in the long run?
Who knows? The imponderables of potential outcomes and hypothetical ‘what ifs’ just distract us from the present. I say aim high but enjoy whatever you get. Appreciate the sidelines.
If climbing is rained out, I’ll often go for a post-precipitation stroll. The smell of damp earth, frog calls and dusk rays brings a smile. It may be second place, but certainly not second rate!
Thanks to Moritz Thilo and Marian Penso for the little mission, and to Marian for the pics.