It’s November, six months after I started my alpine apprenticeship, and we’re all still rock climbing in shorts and tshirts and, after an unseasonal summer, the Autumn has shown Chamonix’s true colours. It is beautiful here right now and, though the days are getting shorter and the mornings are certainly crisper, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the summer.
My aims of the alpine apprenticeship
I want to begin by saying that it is by no means over; I believe that, to reach the mythical level I hold in my dreams of climbing skill and ability, it will take hundreds of days in the mountains, with dozens of different climbing partners. However, with juggling the move to a new country, my wife’s amazing challenge, and exploring my professional opportunities out here, I think this has been a truly amazing start. It hasn’t been what I planned, nor what I hoped in some regards but it has been unforgettable.
As I arrived here in May, I embarked on my mission of climbing with a broad range of new partners, getting out in the hills as much as possible, and growing as an alpinist. I believe that I have succeeded and have laid a very strong foundation for what is to come. I hesitate a little, however, as there have been a number of times I have felt I could be doing more.
I have tried to commit as much as I can to this objective but life has a way of getting in the way and so there have been times when I have felt I’ve not got out climbing as much as I could have, that I’ve missed opportunities that others have grasped, and that I could have done more.
FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
I have had some serious bouts of FOMO this summer, the Fear of Missing Out. I’ve never really felt this feeling of missing out, of lacking, before and it has been difficult to deal with. Facebook has not shied away from showing me photos of people I know out on routes I want to be climbing while I’m stuck indoors working. Maybe I decided to give that day out a pass, rest, and go out the following day, or maybe I just wasn’t invited on that climb. Whatever the reason, seeing people out climbing mountains and routes I want to climb has been a challenge.
What if I’m wasting this opportunity I have right now? That I’ll look back on this time and feel I squandered my time, that I wasted once in a lifetime conditions on something other than chasing my dream.
This is all ridiculous. I know this. I am unbelievably fortunate in everything I have done this summer and need to take stock of this. Looking back over the last 6 months, I can see how far I have really come, how many giant leaps I have made, and I am starting to see where I can take this.
I want to climb for the next 40 years.
The achievements I have accomplished this summer have taken me from tentative and cautious climber to a slightly more confident and whole lot more competent alpinist. I have been out in the hills for over 40 days this summer, working my way through Chamonix’s easy and mid-grade classics. I’ve cruised up some of the hardest leads of my climbing career, making light work of steep, exposed terrain or challenging conditions. I have bailed when that little voice at the back of my mind has suggested I come back another day and, though sometimes wondering if it is the right decision, I know now that I don’t regret it once.
There are still dozens of routes on my dream tick-list that I have not had the opportunity to get on while others may have done but I’m ok with that.The pangs of FOMO quickly fade when I relise there will always be more routes I can’t wait to attempt, there will always be mountains I would love the honour of standing on top of, and, if I play my cards right, there will always be another day for me to do this.
I love what I have achieved, learnt, and tested myself on, and am laying the foundations for a lifelong relationship with the big mountains, cold north faces, and exhilarating leads. There is a certain amount of hurry here in Chamonix, a hurry to catch up with the people who already have several seasons under their belts, an element of competition. I am not immune to it, by no means, but, when I feel that tightening in my stomach and urge to beat myself up over missing an opportunity, I remind myself; I want to be climbing this stuff for the next 40 years.
There will always be another year
With the exception of maybe the Drus, a stunning mountain that, every year, disintegrates a little more, all of these routes, mountains, and objectives will be here for the rest of my lifetime. There is no hurry to rush out onto these routes today just to find that I am not ready, that I don’t yet belong on the route. My time will come, I know it.
Looking back through my logbook, I am amazed at everything that I have got done. I really did get out this summer, and i really have progressed, climbing routes that just 6 months ago would have been a dream come true. By sharing a few of them with you here, it makes me feel very proud of my progress, satisfied that I haven’t wasted opportunities, and even relieved a little too.
Some highlights from this summer:
You can read about the routes in more detail below: