The leaves have changed colour again (as scheduled for this time of year) and I find myself on the brink of another winter season.  What does this mean? Total chaos, a shit storm if you will; crazy schedules, loads of travel, festivals, endless training, competitions, battling sequences through routes that push my limits, and boundaries–a season filled with all the things to why I love climbing.  Yes, a shit storm, and yes, right in the eye of it, but like Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump, strapped to the lookout (high on the boom) of Forest’s shrimpin’ boat, he embraced the crazy storm, taunting it as if it were a light drizzle out.   He did not fear any such storm, but looked at it as if it were an opportunity to show that nothing was to hold him back.  So let’s get it on.

From the moment I put my tools down, ready for a break from winter climbing, I knew that it wouldn’t be long until that feeling of excitement returned, the tension of each pick placement, the gymnastic movement from hold to hold, the brittle ice crashing down onto my helmet with every swing, I knew it wouldn’t be long.  Winters seem long, but in the short of the summer, I long for winters return.

I love rock climbing.  In fact, sometimes I wonder which side of climbing I like more, summer or winter.  Throughout each season I’m always psyched for the next day out.  Projects to work on, chains to clip, no matter what season it is, climbing…in it of itself is what I love.  I’ve been asked by friends what I like better, rock or ice, and generally out of laughter, I say, “both”.  But in all honesty, jokes aside, I always end up going back to mixed climbing.  I’m not 100% sure to why that is, but there’s just something about it that draws me back, with more excitement, every season.  Maybe it’s because I’m better at it? Not sure.

Although excitement fills my every breath when the mixed season is at large, but too, fear hovers over me like a stormy cloud.  It’s not that I live in fear, but certainly aspects of various winter plans, fear lurks.  I don’t try to, but often I put pressure on myself to perform at a certain level.  Perhaps not all bad, but too much pressure can lead to dark places.  In past I’ve seen such places, the darkness of obsession, pressure, and believe you me, it’s not for the faint of heart.  The fear tries to overtake the passion, the excitement, and in those times, it’s then we must summon the will to trump any such negativity we face and be reminded to why we do what we do…because we love it, because it’s fun.

Generally, by the time spring rolls around, I’m glad to have put my tools away and be packing my bag with rock shoes and a chalk bag.  However, the seasons have changed again and I find myself sharpening tools, and prepin’ my winter kit.  Plans have been made, tickets have been booked, and my psyche for winter climbing has returned.  I can’t even begin to explain how motivated I am for this winter’s climbing.  I’ve trained harder, longer, better, more efficiently.  Everything I’ve learned from years past, I’ve worked on, focused on, and improved on.  My backyard has turned into a monster, walls, logs, ladders, dangling, hanging, levered, all so that I could perform better, smarter, faster, and stronger.  You see, it never ends, it’s never over, but the commitment to being the best I can be, it’s what drives me to keep going.  When someone believes that they’re capable of doing something, no matter what it is, if they truly believe, then the improbable becomes the inevitable.

Festivals, World Cup competitions, futuristic ice caves, cutting edge dry-tooling–French style, it’s all on the calendar, adventures…so many adventures.  Come to think of it, when I put my tools down in March, I could tell you that I was ready for a break, and yes, for the summer I focused on rock climbing, but in my head, I don’t think I ever really let go.  And I guess that answers my own question to what my passion really is.  I love mixed climbing because everything inside of me doesn’t want to let go.  I’m always thinking about it, learning about it, pushing the limits within it.

The season is on, and I’m more ready than I ever have been.  So let’s get it on shall we?

(Photos by Tim Banfield)