New targets.....

10th Jan 2014

Many years ago, sat in a ski apartment on New Year's Eve, I made a plan.  At the time I was teaching in a primary school and really wanted a new direction.  I actually really wanted to take people into the mountains.   Some time before I'd got as far as getting a basic climbing qualification so I could take some of the children to the local climbing wall and it had gown me clearly that, although I enjoyed teaching, developing climbing skills was where my real passion lay.  Climbing had been my obsession for many years and nothing beat the buzz I got from sharing my knowledge and love for the sport with others.
Prior to teaching I had done some work in the outdoor industry so, although I was hardly up to date with all the possibilities,  I had some understanding of the qualification structure and my initial target became the Mountain Instructor Award (MIA).  This qualification seemed to offer plenty of scope for work and, as a climber and mountaineer, it appeared to be an attainable target before I considered moving on to additional awards. 
I also desperately wanted to run my own business.  My family had a long history of running small businesses (some more successfully than others!) and I knew it would suit me too.  The chance to make my own decisions and lead the direction the company might take was a very attractive proposition and I relished the thought that, for the effort I would undoubtedly need to put in, I would reap the rewards and have the satisfaction of seeing it develop. The MIA, among others possible avenues of work, offered scope to take people climbing and scrambling in the mountain environment I loved most and, I hoped, it could   provide enough clients to support a small business.
My plan on that New Year's Eve became very detailed.  I worked out timescales and costs as well as planning how to fit it all in to my teaching holidays (I planned to stay in teaching long enough to get through MIA assessment).  I remember distinctly how I stayed up until the early hours of New Year's Day, surrounded by charts and plans, buzzing with the excitement of it all.  Not the most sociable New Year's Eve I've ever spent, but certainly the most productive. 
The journey I began that evening changed my life in so many ways.  It also changed my view of the benefits of personal target setting.  Despite spending my teaching life setting targets for the children, I had tended to drift through my own life without much focus.  I may have had tick lists for climbing but I really had no clear career path  Since then, I've set personal targets every year and always will.  Nowadays they tend to be a mixed bag of personal sporting and travel objectives, business targets and usually a few family related ones are in the mix too.
I have learnt to be realistic enough to know that sometimes something will get in the way of me ticking them them all off but I do review them regularly to assess why I failed and how I can succeed in future.  The Walker Spur on the Grand Jorasses, for example, is one of my dream Alpine route that has been on my target list for well over a decade after a friend and I got stormed off it from mid height.  It's back on the list for 2014 despite 4 further attempts that have all been thwarted by poor weather or conditions.
I was in a ski resort again this New Year and, although I'm glad to say I didn't sit up until the early hours of New Year's Day mulling over this years selection, I did use the trip to get my 2014 list sorted.  On the list there's a fairly typical selection of sporting challenges, a couple of targets based around seeing more of certain friends and family members plus at least 5 major business targets.  It's a challenging but attainable list.
But I also wanted to incorporate a new type of climbing challenge this year too.  Although climbing targets have been a regular feature of all my lists I wanted something that was more of a project.  Something that would need a lot of work.  I know it's by no means a new idea but it's certainly a change for someone that has always focussed on ground up on sight ascents. 
The idea came from reading Steph Davis's new book (Learning to Fly) last week.  Steph is very driven by projects and in the book she describes, among other projects,  her ascent of Percepcion.  Percepcion is a 200 foot splitter crack in the American desert area of Moab that, prior to her ascent, had only been climbed twice.  Steph describes in detail her long term mission to climb the route.  Her solo walks into the desert to practice moves and work out the sequence of moves needed to succeed.  On each visit she'd work her way up the climb using a self belay system for protection before, after a long period of practice, she managed to lead the route successfully on her first try.
I loved the idea of doing something similar on gritstone.  Something to work towards.  A climb that would always be beyond my ability without prior practice.  Something that I could head over to work on regularly and fit in to my everyday life.  So, added to my targets this year is a classic gritstone route that is well beyond my current climbing grade.  It's about 20 minutes ride from my house so I will get to it by cycling and I'll work the line on a self belay system prior to attempting a lead ascent.  It will take some time to work out the moves, get strong enough and feel confident in the gear placements and my ability to lead the line cleanly.  It will be a new type of challenge and I'm really excited and motivated to get on it as soon as possible.  
Just like becoming a mountaineering instructor it will be a journey.  A target that needs commitment, determination and patience.  Surely they are the best targets?  Oh....and the route?  I'll keep you posted.
Posted by Paul