27 April 2010
Peter commented on my last post:
“What about the fact that some (many? most?) climbers are in this game for the sheer fun of it?
It seems to me (from my bumbly-level vantage point) that chasing numbers is 99% drudgery, so many climbers naturally plateau at the point of maximum fun for least effort (however you define those two dimensions).
Tangentially, a few climbers I've known who've played the numbers game inevitably reach a performance plateau no matter how hard they work, and in a couple of cases that's been sufficiently demoralising that they've given the game away entirely.”
I started replying as a comment but thought it might be better as a whole point seeing as he raises such an important question.
Chasing numbers is 100% drudgery because numbers are meaningless. Improving at climbing is entirely different. Depending on how you go about it, it can be a source of endless and deep enjoyment and satisfaction, or it can be hellish.
It’s enjoyable and satisfying if you are oriented towards using all your skills to break the barriers and are good at measuring when you’ve broken them. It’s also enjoyable when you suddenly get an insight into how you have become stuck in your ways or limited in your ideas about how to improve. This is a constant battle (and hence enjoyment). Plateaus are not really frustrating because they are ever more challenging opportunities to play the next round of the improvement game. The early rounds, where all you have to do is show up as a young climber and your muscles get bigger are just the warm-ups. Once you hit your first plateau the game gets much more interesting and ultimately rewarding. More on this in the first chapter of my book.
It can be hellish if you think you are chasing improvement, but deep down you are really chasing numbers. You move from hollow victory to ever more hollow victory until you hit a plateau and realise at the bitter end your top number was no more satisfying than the first. That feeling would make any athlete throw in the towel.