In January 2012 I decided rock climbing could help me beat depression. I spent 6 months dreaming and watching climbing films. In June I had 2 indoor lessons then promptly gave up on the idea.
On the 19th of January 2013 on my 40th birthday I did a Via Ferrata called the Camino del Rey in Spain. I got friendly with some climbers in our B&B and decided to return 2 weeks later. My ever illogical brain had decided to return alone to Spain and try climbing again, I simply followed the brain. My guide Tom was excellent and we climbed a multipitch after only 3 days of lessons. In an uncharacteristic, emotional high, I told Tom of my struggle and why I wanted to climb. He suggested I check out some guy called Andy Porkpatrick ... no ... Fitzpatrick ... no ... Star Trek ... ah ...Kirkpatrick.
When I got home I Googled this guy and read his latest blog which dealt with depression. I emailed him saying thanks for writing the blog and I could really relate to it.
6 weeks later and my dream was over again. I was too scared to join a club or meet climbers, at the time social situations made my brain implode. I messaged Tom to tell him I was quitting climbing, I instantly recieved, " Email Robbie ... DON'T QUIT!""
Robbie lived in Spain and worked at The Olive Branch B&B but had recently come back to the UK. He emailed me back and a few weeks later we went climbing and I eventually wrote the blog The Holy Tree of Shoes
Tom and Robbie had me dreaming of climbing again. I got home and a signed copy of Psychovertical by Andy Kirkthingy (I could never remember his name?) was waiting for me. I'd forgotten that in a delusional episode I'd told him I had plans to climb El Cap, I'd also forgotten that he'd asked for my address.
Inside the book he had written
"Take it one move at a time"
"one pitch at a time"
"one route at a time"
I had to Google what a route and a pitch were.
3 strangers had changed my life in 3 hrs ... I was in awe, people needed to know about the climbing community, it was a revelation. El Cap was back on, I told you I was delusional! The next day on the 23rd of March 2013 I started the Climb Out Facebook page and blog page.
By April I had climbed once in the UK but my family and I were off to Turkey armed with a rope and quick draws I had borrowed off Robbie. I was now obsessed with climbing, I read Psychovertical, I didn't know that Andy had actually climbed El Cap, I'm such an idiot, I read it again! The book got me into a little trouble, I was over confident and over psyched. My depression had decided risking my life was worth it just to be climbing. I could barely remember the basics and my wife Andrea had never belayed before. I panicked on a route, I got into trouble, then realised that Andy Peakpatrick had sent me an email saying "don't trust your brain it will play tricks on you", this was good advice. I blogged about my mini-epic in The 7 Commandments and the Flying Lotuses.
By July I was a tip top, not so lean, clambering machine. The Climb Out blogs and facebook page had a few followers so Robbie and I came up with The Climb Out Charity Challenge. The challenge was to climb 50 trad routes in 24hrs. The charity didn't ask for money, we just asked that people did a good deed for themselves or others. We completed the challenge with minutes to spare, I didn't ask if anyone did any good deeds, that would have defeated the object.
Work took over my life for a few months and by October I'd only managed maybe 6-7 days of climbing in 5 months. I needed to start climbing more so I decided to return to El Chorro and back to my roots. I continued to post on Facebook, I started to read Psychovertical again as inspiration and to help me sleep on the plane. I've read about the Reticent Wall so many times it's like a comforting bedtime story, I'm yet to get bored of it. Spain didn't go as planned, my depression wasn't keen on me doing much climbing. I did meet some wonderful people though who I'm proud to now call great friends.
On the 27th of December 2013 I decided to create the Climb Out website. I was feeling positive and up for training for new climbing goals. On the 2nd of January 2014 I broke my wrist which resulted in ... Note To Self - Always Expect To Fall I devoted every spare minute to Climb Out in a bid to stay positive and in touch with climbing in some way. Before I knew it I had 1000's of site visitors. Do not be fooled, this wasn't by chance. I can be obsessive and I'm passionate about my cause. I sent emails, I wrote blogs, I worked on the site, I made video's I gave it everything. Tom Randall, Stephen Fry and the BMC supported Climb Out and it kind of took off from there.
Where was my copy of Psychovertical? I decided not to read it I needed a change. I had wanted to buy the new book Cold Wars but I was too tight to pay £16.
A few weeks ago I went to watch Andy Kirkpatrick. He was doing a signing after the show so I bought 2 copies of Cold Wars. I told you my brain was illogical, I was too tight to buy 1 copy a few weeks before. One was to read and the other was to get signed and give away for Climb Out. I wasn't too interested in meeting "Andy Kirkpatrick" the media figure. I just wanted to shake hands with a yet another stranger who helped change my life. I was tempted to say "I totally want to cut off your skin and wear it for my birthday" but if you've not seen the Will Ferrel film "Blades of Glory" this wouldn't seem so funny. I decided not to get arrested, so just mentioned that I had started Climb Out and that Psychovertical really helped me.
Then my brain kicked in ... what the hell was I doing? Who the hell was I actually helping? I'm not a real climber! This guy takes blind people and children up big walls. I felt like an idiot! I haven't done anything, I just moan a lot online, its rather embarrassing really. I wrote a blog called Having A Bad Day a while back and these old insecurities had crawled back into my life.
I've struggled recently with attention, depression and obsession. Climb Out has taken over my life for the past 3 months and somewhere along the line I've lost my way. I've had to re-visit my old blogs to remember why I started them. I wanted to show people that climbing can help change your life ... it's that simple. It isn't a miracle cure and it brings a whole new set of challenges and insecurities but there are lots of people who are more than willing to help you along the way.
Did Psychovertical change my life? I'm not sure but the tales of honesty, openness and personal struggle certainly helped, the climbing exploits are almost secondary. I don't really have climbing heroes, the people I meet and the friends I make are my inspiration.
OK this is a slight cop out, everyone has at least one climbing hero! Someone who pushes the limits beyond what they think is possible, someone who admits to fear but won't submit to defeat. If I have to chose one climbing hero I will choose my son Jay, he climbs harder than anyone I know.