• JoJo

Spiritual Home: Ode to a Climbing Wall

I start this week’s post by asking for your forgiveness, dear readers. I have written a poem. I am not a poet but I did it anyway and I hope you’ll forgive me if/when this turns out to be anything but a hidden talent that I’ve been unaware of for the past 31 years.

Woman pulling onto a indoor boulder
Pulling onto a boulder back in 2015

I wanted to tell you all about the place where I learned to climb. I wanted to tell you how my experiences there changed how I see myself and the world around me. I wanted to share some stories of the most memorable boulders I climbed there, that have stuck with me for both good and frightening reasons.


I sat down to type all this out in my usual lengthy and sarcastic style and for some unknown reason this is what flowed from my fingertips. I am not a poet. But I’ll try anything once, that is how I got into climbing after all, so here’s my attempt at making words rhyme and flow.


I hope you enjoy my attempt at branching out into a new genre. If by some happy chance it turns out I’m actually a brilliant poet and you love this piece or you feel like giving someone a good laugh, please feel free to share this blog post with your friends/family/enemies/associates.


Normal service will be resumed next week.


Probably.


I present to you my poem. . .


Spiritual Home: An Ode to a Climbing Wall


On the outskirts of Cambridge town centre is a place very special to me

It showed me a side of myself I never knew I couldn’t see

Through the slowest automatic door in the world and up two flights of stairs

Just past the reception desk began one of my life’s great love affairs


An alarming colour scheme

Tinged with acidic green

Mats of blue and walls of grey

Holds like a Jackson Pollock spray

Your eyes are left stinging

Barely room for cat swinging

Unlikely as it at first certainly seems

This room is the home of many possible dreams

Every wall tells a story

Of pain and/or glory

Of moments that shaped me

Of legs feeling shakey

Of hands left battered

Of blood lightly spattered

The vert wall on the right is where I had my first fall

My left foot was neglected as my left hand reached tall

Colours flashed past my face at an alarming rate

Am I dead? Am I broken?

Some token words spoken

And a few tears shed in the shock of it all

The overhang on the left is where I climbed my first 5+

Though I refused to jump down due to being a wuss

I swung my way up on holds large and green

Achieving the greatest physical feat you’ll ever have seen

“What do I do now?” I cried out in woe

Much to the amusement of Husband down below

My arms gave out and I crashed down in a heap

But the sense of achievement I’ve endeavoured to keep

“Just stand up” the spectators call

To the poor nervous climber marooned on the slab wall

Stepping up on one leg is absolutely fine

It’s like climbing stairs, you do that all the time

But it’s a whole different matter

When you’re at the top of the slab

Down below they all chatter

“Get on with it mate, it’s really not that bad”

“One, two, three”

Yet I’m still not moving

Convinced that I’ll slip

“One, two, three”

The situation’s not improving

There’s a quiver in my bottom lip

“One, two, three”

Here I go, up and zooming

The top jug’s in my grip!

It really wasn’t that bad after all

Maybe I really do in fact like climbing the slab wall

It was on that fair slab after so many tries

I climbed my first 6b+ and brought tears to my eyes

To this day I remember every black and yellow hold

In a peculiar sequence of beta untold

Work your way left to right with balance aplenty

Then smear on the wall and raise up your left foot in a manner so gently

The crux of the boulder is a simple transition

Merely straighten your left leg from its folded position

It doesn’t sound like much effort when you say it like that

But with the aid of no handholds it’s easy to fall flat

One last time I went for it, just one last try

I channeled belief into my calf, quad, and thigh

Push harder, push harder, squeeze out one more inch

Just a little bit higher then I’ll be in reach of the pinch

With one final push it all came together

It’s a moment I hope I’ll remember forever

My body is a beast and I’m proud of its skill

My mind is its ally, climbing walls with sheer will

The steep wall at the back of the room tells a slightly different tale

Not of a climb successfully topped, in fact, a spectacular fail

The holds they were grey though it was anything but dull

This boulder required commitment, pure, true, and full

I lunged for the next hold with all of my might

What came next was an unexpected and unpleasant sight

Before my eyes, my left hand abandoned its plight

My body began to take an unscheduled flight

Round and around I spun despite my best fight

In my head I whispered my goodbyes and goodnights

As the opposing wall loomed into view, stoic and upright

Ready to catch me as I fell from a height

“This is going to hurt, this is going to be shite”

By some epic stroke of luck or by gravity’s good grace

I landed short of the wall and not on my face

Instead I crashed down on my neck, head, and shoulder

Well and truly scuppered by this arse of a boulder

I’ll never know how I did it, but nothing was damaged

No ambulance required, not even a bandage

That was by far the scariest fall I’ve ever taken

If I can survive that, I’ll survive anything, if I’m not mistaken

These are just a few stories from a room unassuming and not my usual cup of tea

Ordinarily this cramped space with too many colours would not be ideal for me

But after hundreds of falls and as many successes

It showed me I could be more than I’d ever expected

Though I generally left there black and blue and missing skin

These wounds were teamed with satisfaction deep within

For all the frustration, blood, sweat, and tears

The boulders in this room taught me to face all my fears

I took the lessons I learned here into the world outside

Along with a newfound sense of courage and pride

I’ll carry these memories wherever I roam

Who’d have thought this strange place would be my spiritual home?

An old boulder in my spiritual home. I like to think my technique has improved now!

2 comments

Related Posts

See All