I am something of a failure.
There, I said it.
On a number of occasions in the last year I have failed to achieve something through fear, most notably last year, while in Snowdonia I failed to reach the summit of Tryfan. It wasn’t through lack of fitness, or desire to reach the top and leap, gazelle-like, from Adam to Eve (or is it Eve to Adam, I forget) no, it was a simple case of getting about three quarters of the way up the north ridge, looking up at the wall of rock that remained and my bottle falling out of my arse.
I have always been afraid of heights. Always.
8 years old, school trip to Durham Cathedral. Climb to the top of the tower. Going up the spiral staircase I can feel the tower swaying – it’s not swaying and unless a major earthquake hits Durham it never will – but I can feel it swaying all the same. Get to the top. Refuse to go anywhere near the parapet. Miss out on view of Durham.
Two years later, 10 Years old. Family trip to Richmond in North Yorkshire. My Dad drags me to the top of the Castle Keep to cure my fear. It doesn’t. The Keep is only 100ft high. I still hear the screaming when I close my eyes.
In three visits to Paris I have never managed higher than the Second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Ski lifts – usually these delightful contraptions skim along a mere 20-30ft above the heads of the merry crowds below, however there is (or was, its been 10 years) one lift in Teton Village that suddenly takes off and soars up a vertical cliff face, I have travelled on it once, and I tried to get off halfway. Had it not been for Mrs W halting my progress I would now be a greasy red smear on that cliff face.
The London Eye fills me with dread, and a sense that it would be an enormous waste of money; as I would inevitably spend the entire revolution gibbering, face down in the centre of the pod.
I know it’s a cliché but I started climbing thinking it would maybe finish what my dad had tried to start and that by exposing myself (not that like you perverts!) to my aversion would rid me of the fear.
What it has done is teach me, to an extent, to control it. It still surfaces now and again, I climbed last Wednesday and tried to lead on an overhang, I got three clips off the ground and started to struggle. All I needed to do was bring a foot up onto a feature and step up bringing the next hold and clip into reach. But I couldn’t do it, then I realised, I wasn’t afraid of the height or the fall particularly. I was afraid of not doing it, of failing.
I look back at my failure on Tryfan last year and thinking about it, I realise I wasn’t afraid of the height; in fact I was sitting on a nice flat bit at the time, it was looking up and thinking what if I go further and then find I can’t do it and get stuck. Failure.
So now I’m afraid of failing, here we go again……