Constantine Carluen

The ‘it’ factor

When Georgia asked me if I would write for her column, I began writing a clichéd story of my experience of online dating which has become a conveyor belt of awkward goodbyes and disappointment. With the number of dates I’ve been on, I’ve become very good at the whole first date. Come to think of it, maybe the number of dates I’ve been on means that I’m not actually good at it?

Whilst I was questioning whether I wanted to divulge my inadequacies in being a suitable suitor for stuck-up bitches who were blindly searching for the ‘it’ factor, I pondered whether you actually need to be good at something to enjoy it?

Take for example, rock climbing. It’s one of these activities which has gone from being something I did once every couple of months, to an activity I now do twice a week. Needless to say, I look forward to climbing much more than that inevitable cold shower after a failed first date.

I’m not yet very good at climbing but boy oh boy, do I enjoy it! I don’t consider it a sport the same way I see soccer or netball. I don’t even want to train for it because I don’t want to take the fun out of it. Nor do I consider it extreme, which is what a lot of people think about it. It’s just what I do.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that rock climbing has changed me- for the better or worse, I’m not sure just yet.

Once upon a time, I used to get sweaty palms at the prospect of a first date but rock climbing has nullified all that. When you start to panic and the adrenalin kicks in, that’s when you know things are going wrong. That’s when your heart starts to race, and you realise your forearms are beginning to fill with lactic acid, and you’re struggling to draw in enough oxygen because you’re holding your breath from exertion. This is when your mind begins to plays tricks on you. That ‘Figure 8’ knot you’ve tied to your harness- you now begin to think is unravelling and if you don’t stick that next hold, you will plummet to your untimely death…

Rock climbing is a mind f*ck. It is both physically and mentally draining. It’s awesome in its purest form.

To be honest though, the actual rock climbing is only half the adventure. Most of the time it’s getting to the crag (the place you climb) which is the most fun. Without the adventure, rock climbing can be compared to pornography without the photographer. It’s still good but it just is.

Climbers, I soon found, formed some sort of secret society and once indoctrinated, it becomes all-consuming. I normally have good restraint but before I knew it, I was thinking about climbing day and night.

Whenever I meet someone new, no matter how heavy-set or Barbie-dolled, and they mention an area that I frequent, my Pavlovian response is “Oh, I know that place well, I go climbing there.” More often than not, I get blank looks and find myself looking at my feet for another conversation piece to pretend that I am in fact, normal, “And that bakery in town serves the nicest focaccias.”

It’s a world where once you enter, you will not find your way out easily. Climbing magazines and route guides have become my pornography. I often find myself sitting hunched over a friend’s kitchen bench with lights dimmed, flicking through a route guide in deep conversation…

“How nice does this route look?”

“F*ck yeah. What does it say?”

“She’s a 21. Right of buttock. Up steeply through bulge. Finger crack the roof, then straight up.”

“Definitely doable!”

Not only is the jargon a massive turn on, it’s the masochistic tendencies which I get to fulfil. Imagine this… It’s just gone 7am on a Saturday and you’ve been up since 4:30. You are halfway up a route and you already have beads of sweat running down your face. It’s at the crux (most difficult part) of the climb and you’re tippy-toed on a jutting pebble with an outstretched arm reaching to clip your rope in.

Sounds masochistically perfect huh?

Personally, I add that element of self-abuse to make it just right. “Make the f*cking move, you f*ck-f*ck! It’s not that f*cking hard!”

Only a year ago I never would have thought I would find so much relief in hearing the click of a carabiner closing shut. But it’s after I feed my rope through the carabiner, after conquering the crux, that I herald the gods with a cry of “Thank f*ck!” because I know it’s easy-er from here.

Dismayed at the failures of online dating, I felt I should try and redeem the interweb as a means of social networking. I tracked a local climber down on a climbing forum and the way we arranged to meet didn’t have the makings of a shady rendezvous in the slightest.

“Meet me 45 minutes out of town on the corner of ’Gut me silly‘ and ’Bury me in a mass grave‘ streets, we’ll take my car.”

Being somewhat traditional, I’ve also met some great climbing partners down here through more conventional means. Even though the way we introduced ourselves at the climbing club’s ‘meet and greet’ was synonymous to an Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program.

“Hi, I’m Constantine and I’m new to climbing.”

But it’s these bonds you make, when each week, they hold your life in their hands- or at the very least, prevent you from being seriously injured and vice versa.

The other week, I was climbing and my mate was on the way up. His first piece of protection was a difficult move and I needed to spot him to prevent him from falling off the 2-metre drop to his left. He did fall. He fell numerous times. He fell on me. I had sweaty arse in my face but he was ok. After each fall, we laughed as if we were drunks, nudie running down George Street. You know, I’m not too sure how many friendships you make when you have cheated serious injury together and actually want to see the person the week after?

The truth is, to me, climbing is ‘it’, and week in and week out I deal with rejections from prospective dates. Dates who, in the ‘real’ world, I would not even take a second glance at. But when I’m up there, 150 metres above the ground, with a 10 millimetre rope as my only lifeline and holding an edge that is no thicker than a 20 cent piece with my fingertips, you know ‘it’ doesn’t matter in the end.

 

 

Written by Constantine Carluen

 

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