I’ve just got back from Australia, where I attended my friends’ wedding. Most of us are climbers, so after the wedding, we went climbing. On natural rocks, at Nowra.
I love climbing, I think I started climbing about the same time as I started learning and caring about the environment and biodiversity. Here in Singapore though, options for climbing are somewhat limited. Sport climbing mostly, on artificial walls, and climbing on natural at Dairy Farm only, since climbing at granite quarries on Ubin is not allowed.
There’s simply a beauty about climbing outdoors on natural rock surfaces that artificial walls and indoor gyms cannot replicate. Perhaps it’s the fresh air, not stale sweaty chalky air; or the cool breeze in your face, instead of hot wind blowing around; or simply the trees and birdsong that no gym can reproduce.
Even though it is infinitely more nerve-wracking climbing on natural wall, it is still way more enjoyable. The freedom you have, to use anything you can hold and put your weight on, any moves you can make, just to get you to the top.
It’s never about conquering; no, I never treated mountaineering or climbing as conquering Nature. Rather, they inspire awe and respect, and I simply want to get to the top to enjoy the beauty and the view and breathe the fresh air and be glad that I’m alive and am fortunate enough to do all that.
It’s a totally different world when you’re out there climbing. You lose track of time, and you forget about worldly, secular problems. And the best thing is, it’s free.
When you’re put in such a situation, how can you still believe that one day, everybody will live in small cramped overcrowded cities, no matter how green? There will always be the errant few who crave the outdoors, who crave Nature, who crave the wilderness.
I wished to acquire the simplicity, native feelings, and virtues of savage life; to divest myself of the factitious habits, prejudices and imperfections of civilization; … and to find, amidst the solitude and grandeur of the western wilds, more correct views of human nature and of the true interests of man. The season of snows was preferred, that I might experience the pleasure of suffering, and the novelty of danger. – Estwick Evans, A Pedestrious Tour, of Four Thousand Miles, Through the Western States and Territories, During the Winter and Spring of 1818
Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation. – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind
Extracts taken from Chapter Sixteen, The Alaska Interior, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. My companion book for this trip.