Fear in Surburbia

Every Tuesday I try and do one thing that scares me. And I mean really scares me – such that for moments I fear for my own life.

This is actually pretty hard to achieve when you live in a society that is well organised and regimented. And yet important enough for me to regularly seek out on a weekly basis.

But before you start to worry about me or about the safety of those around me, let me explain.

The local climbing wall has become the stage upon which these moments can be acted out. And that for me is tackling a really hard route I may not be capable of completing [ie. the real risk of an uncontrollable fall].

To be clear, I’m not having to behave dangerously or act in ways outside of my training. Gear and safety checks are done and best practices followed for the safety of myself and partner.

However, there is something residual over and above all that when you start climbing routes that are just on the edge of your ability. And yet this process is necessary for any rock climber to go through if they want to make progress in the ‘sport’.

As you grow in strength and skill, it takes harder and harder challenges to find and experience these moments. But the strange thing about fear is that it remains a constant. As a beginner I was petrified to leave the ground, as a middling climber, I’m not petrified until 200m off the ground. And yet the experience of fear is exactly the same.

There is something terrifying and in equal part electrifying climbing up a route, wondering at each clip if your hands and feet will hold long enough to get the rope safely hooked in.

There is something very primal that happens in those moments (that is hard to articulate) which leaves me both glad to be alive and also wanting more of the feeling.

But most of all, there’s a deep peace and sense of calm that follows a hard session that is hard to find elsewhere in the suburbs of modern society.

Frank Ray

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