Success - The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Failure - The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends.


I was out in the Roca Verde area of Northern Spain just a week back. Amazing place, amazing trip, but I left with a slight feeling of failure. I hadn’t achieved the desired target. I’d failed on what I’d set out to do. The plan was to try a 9a within the 7 days of the trip. But it proved too much for me.

By our rules climbing is a black and white game. If you only just get to the top, it’s a 100% win, if you fail just one move below the top, it’s a 100% fail. It’s kind of that simple.

If you fall off it doesn’t matter how well you did, or how your foot slipped off the very last super easy move. Perhaps 100 moves of perfection and one biff foot placement. It’s a fail. Not a B+, or even A-, just a fail. Black and white.

But of course it isn’t as simple as that, at least if you look on the positive side. And we’ve all heard it before, about how it’s not about reaching the top and it’s all about the journey and how the best climber is the one having the most fun. Considering the definitions of success and failure are very far apart, and pretty clearly defined, the reality is that success verses failure in our little world is potentially not very far apart at all!

So really, there is absolutely no excuse to chuck all the toys out the pram, especially when anyone with any sanity would have noted all the lovely things and had a big smile on their face. But actually we haven’t got this success/failure thing entirely wrong, in fact it’s the black and white that drives us forward. Would you really re-sit your exams knowing you got an A+ and 97%? Do you need 100%. Do you re-take your driving test after passing after the examiner said it was not quite perfect? Not really. Do you spend another 10 days on a route even though you ‘almost’ did it? Yes. Because ‘did it’, and ‘didn’t do it’ are black and white! And ‘did and ‘didn’t’ are opposite, even if they are separated by almost nothing. We make up the rules, and they are pretty clear cut really, though how we respond to the outcome is up to us.

Perhaps it’s the response to the outcome that really defines success or failure. How about; ‘hero climbs super hard route and now has no real drive or focus and turns into a lard arse’, verses ‘hero doesn’t quite manage route but remains as fit and strong as ever ready for next effort’.  Or ‘hero climbs route and realizes they could now go one better’. Lots of responses to outcomes. And we’ve all been there, when a near miss means a drunken night of misery, and a success means a drunken night of happiness. But a near miss could mean the start of an exciting training plan to conquer, and success could mean the start of an exciting training plan to get even better.

So clearly I’m trying to put a positive spin on things, particularly my falling off 2 hard moves from glory on the 9a route, and if I’d been tall the last move would be easy too, so let’s say I was just a move off. So there’s the positive, and I guess I’m seeing that by bringing evil grades into it. Those numbers may have a lot to answer for, but they are a marker of how hard a route was supposed to be, according to someone else, relative to how they were feeling the day they did it. Perhaps if it had been 8b+ my response would have been different, but 9a is hard. These days the big numbers get downgraded in peoples opinion of what is actually hard. 20 years ago 9a was cutting edge, now its barely a challenge for the stars. But of course the 9a routes are still the same, just as hard. I’ve never climbed a 9a abroad, and all my UK 9’s have taken at least double figure days, so actually things are looking up. It could be argued I’m going at my best ever!

But probably the best response is to be psyched to get better. I’ve had a good year this year, this would have been the icing on the cake, with no doubt lots more cake, with plenty of icing. I’ve already had a fair bit of that, and to be honest probably a little too much not doing the right stuff for my own good. Success on this route would have been awesome, but I’m pretty sure that within a day I wouldn’t have started my training plan to get better. I knew I was out of shape, ticking the route would have probably meant I really could just hang back, as ‘I still did OK even if not on form’. Not ticking the route means I’m keen to get myself together. That’s perhaps the real success.

Anyway. All the battle on the route was recorded to remind me to keep on pushing by Final Crux Films for EPICTV. Due out probably in a few months. This pic from Finalcrux, of the rest (!!) section after 8c+ worth of climbing. Need to work on my recovery


RocaVerde climbing

final crux films


9a 1