“Chess”, 3 July 2004

Below is an account I wrote after my red-point on Chess (located in the area called “Shieldtox” at Nyamuk, Batu Caves).

Ironically, I never wrote about my red point on “Stupid with Manners”. I can’t even remember the date that it happened, but it took place sometime between “Pear” and “Chess”. PA said to me once, “When you get your first one, the rest will come quickly.” I suppose he was right to an extent because I never expected to complete “Stupid with Manners” and “Chess” so quickly after “Pear”.

I do remember a time when I attempted a top-rope of “Stupid with Manners”. The attempt was such a fiasco that with all the tight rope and assistance I received, I still couldn’t make it to the first bolt. I remember writing about that experience. I will post it up when I find it. For the time being, here is my account on “Chess”.

Saturday 3 July 2004

Saturday saw the completion of “Chess”. My third ascent on lead completed the red-point. This also makes it my third 7A, although there appears to be some discussion among the climbers whether the route is truly a 7A. I guess I ought to be used to that by now. The dissension on route grades always seems to crop up after I succeed in red-pointing a route. It seems both “Pear” and “Stupid with Manners”, the two 7A-graded other routes I’ve red-pointed, are being considered for downgrade to 6C.

Whatever… I don’t really care to argue over the grade of a route. For me, the achievement in my head and it is mine and mine alone. Before I even had it, I saw it a thousand times in my dreams – the way I move on the rock, where each move flows into the next. There’s a certain consistency in the movements and a meditative understanding of balance between mind and body. My mind encapsulates total focus on the texture of the rock beneath my fingers, the positioning of my body, the clarity with which the features protrude from the surface.

For all the successes and failures I have encountered on the wall, I believe there must always be a time for reflection on the progress of the journey from the day I took my first step. If I do not, I know I will feel frustrated by the apparent lack of achievement and that will kill progress. Focus is great, but the occasional pat on the back does wonders as well.

I’ve never done well in sports at school. I was always the last person picked for the team during Physical Education class. I would always pray fervently that the ball would never come in my direction because chances are, I wouldn’t be able to catch it. I was the classical example of the nerd in movies. Having developed my climbing as far as I have has done a lot for my mind – being able to embody the image of sporting excellence through climbing is the realisation of a dream.

Most of all, I have seen the power of a dream that I desire with all my heart. This is the definition of life – when each day is lived with this intense passion, an all-consuming thirst that keeps me going. Perhaps, also, in some ways it’s destructive because the hollowness after the completion is just as intense. It’s like the end to a purpose in life. I must have this steady stream of projects that I pursue just to satisfy that fire inside. If the fire goes out, I die with it. I may never really understand it, but I know what I have to do to keep it going.

With the conclusion of “Chess”, I felt a sudden emptiness I could not fill. I needed something else to occupy me just as one would throw another log into the fire before its dying embers blow out completely. “Chess” came more easily than I’d imagined. A part of me expected it to take a lot longer because of the powerful moves at the roof, but I knew I had in the bag when I got the free-point. It was only the matter of a mind game between me and the red-point.

As much as I would like to believe that I have not taken my drive for success into climbing, I know I have. That single-minded craving for success has entered even this aspect of my life – the part that should have been reserved purely for pleasure alone.

A friend, colleague and mentor said something of me and I believe he is right. I will never escape the need to feel challenged. I may want to believe that all I seek in life are simple pleasures and sunny afternoons, but in reality, the mind keeps churning and yearning for something more.

Sadly, I never got a picture of myself climbing “Chess”, but here’s a shot of Sharin at the roof crux which I stole from Rock Climbing. I was using it as my visual inspiration to help me complete the red-point.

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