Saturday, December 24, 2011

Inspiration for the new year

This week I had the pleasure to meet the cameraman (thanks, Silvi!!!), while following the 18-hour ascent of Mirall Impenetrable on Aeri wall of Montserrat by Pelut and Jordi, during one of the coldest days (and nights) of the year on the mountain.  Big olé  for the climbers - and the courageous family support at the base.

While we wait for the Mirall video, here is one of the older productions by Canyi:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Average life

Science says humans usually over-estimate their capabilities compared to others - it is habitual to find 90% of people believing they are "above average", a fact defying the mathematical idea of an average itself.  The problem with this kind of bias is that it becomes difficult to trust yourself.  So how can we know if we are special, something everyone would probably want to be, or if we are simply average?  From childhood onward, various classification mechanisms are out there to rank us - in school, in sports, at work.  We like awards, but we like even more to be the first one on the podium, to be better, to be...above average.

Funny bias this, come to think of it, as it both ruins many pleasures of life and makes things change, innovation appear: over-estimated confidence pushing generals, managers, or scientists ahead with their crazy ideas.  Accepting being average, consciously choosing to live an average life, has always been impossibly hard for me.  It is not only hard, it is better to say I find the idea of it sad, boring, and not worthwhile to wake up in the  morning for.  I have been struggling against the average life for as long as I can remember.  Always trying to be the best, or at least different, was easy in some fields, much harder in others.  Until the day you meet someone better than you the adolescent hope in miracles remains.

But as life goes on its winding trail you repeatedly do meet the real stars - and I have in every field, in those where I thought I excelled, and in those where it was apparent from the beginning that arriving at perfection would be a big challenge to say the least.  In those cases, my famed persistence usually took over from the rational me, attempting to make up for the lack of talent with the goat-like determination.  Some call this problem the "cult of the light bulb", where the society overall believes in a discourse of a lucky inventor, but in reality most of us mortals have to work very hard and very long to be more than "average".

Where I am going with all of this?  It's a kind of an abstruse personal manifesto - although doomed to be average, let's try for the stars.  My message for the end of the year - and the beginning of a new one - even though this life of mine will probably turn out average in the end, even though it is full of mistakes, although I stumble and fall more often than not, ho tornaria a fer.  I would do it again, all over, with the same passion, determination, and drive, always believing despite painful realities, cold nights, and lonely days, that above-average is attainable.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

How to manage a new project?

I have some experience in climbing what my friends call "long-term", it is not the first or the last (I hope) time I take up a hard project and try to motivate myself to live up to it.  This post is part of this self-motivation to continue as so far the project feels somewhat beyond my current level of strength and training (but yes, this is the basic starting point for any project by default).

Starting up the project, Senglar, picture by Juanjo

As a preamble, I think in climbing, like in many other things of life, learning curve is very important.  And it is actually living through this learning curve, which becomes transformed and embodied into the project journey, that makes up for all the suffering otherwise involved in projecting.  Taking up a hard project is like throwing a dare to the world, and to yourself in particular, a dare, but also a commitment to learn, to improve your climbing skill, to live up to the requirements and the challenge of a rock line.  And it is incredible how many challenges 30 meters of rock can conceivably hide.

There are a couple of pre-requisites for working projects: first of all, inspiration.  A climb has to have this over-arching inspiring power, that might have to drive you for several weeks, months, or years.  For me, the most important part of the project is the aesthetics of the line and the diversity and technicality of the moves. It certainly matters where the project is.  If it is to be a long-term love-and-hate affair, it better be close to home, with relatively easy logistics and possible partner options to go there.  Next, the route has to have an inspiring name, really!  With a little bit of imagination we can make sense of numerous route names to relate some meaning to them.  Rush, Discordia, Maugli, or Calladeta motivated me not only because of incredible moves and pure lines, but also because of the names.  I had some trouble with Ben Petat, as I did not necessarily find the name mystic or fascinating enough to drool about at night, but the awesomeness of the moves compensated for the name in this particular case.

Second, to work a true long-term project, a lot of persistence is required.  Either you have it to begin with, or if not you can work on developing character during a project siege, but it is definitely one of the key ingredients to accomplish a project.  Sometimes, during low moments, it might be helpful to hear from your friends encouragements like "Yes, you can do it", but most of the time people will actually tell you that you should change objectives, go somewhere else, try other routes.  It is good advice, but it does not help with the persistence part if you do not have enough of it to spill yourself.  And only persistence will make you succeed if you are not genetically gifted but rather boast an average ability in sports.

Lastly, specific training for a project is part of what makes the whole formula work out for me in the end.  My take on it is to spend 2 weeks training hard for the project in the gym and 2 weeks working the project, in cycles of several months.  During the training (planned using tips and tricks from the best, Eva Lopez) I usually use the week-ends to get my frustrations out on different playgrounds and send some easy routes for the ego, and then use the remaining 2 weeks as project-specific training, trying if possible to be on the project every 2nd or 3d day.  It is a lot of self-discipline and painful planning required, especially when your friends are keen on going to many other different places and you are stuck in one location for months in a row.  But that is the part where inspiration and persistence should help keep you going back to one spot (and yes, sometimes, unfortunately, appear to prefer the "climb" to the people...).

Sticking the crux on the project for the first time, picture by Juanjo

After all this talk and reflection, for me this winter season starts at Senglar, with a new project (appropriately named Sprint Final), trying to break into a new grade (8a+), and becoming once more part of the Montserrat landscape for the months to come.  Maybe I should add "announcing it to the world" as one of the mechanisms for project success, but anyway, there we go, same place, new project.  Times will tell if I am strong enough to go through the process all over again, if my body can take another grade increase, and if fun can be had in the meantime to compensate at least a little for all the abuse on tendons, muscles, and mind.  For the moment, thanks to the faithful belayers - Alex, Joan Maria, Joan, Juanjo, Jordi, Marcelo, and Laia.  To be continued.