I always liked superheroes when I was a kid and because I haven’t quite grown up yet I was He-man, master of the rock (universe) and Ramon was the skinny demon Skeletor and his bright shinny silver annoying jacket helped represent the character.
My endless summer seemed to go on forever but eventually the time was running out, the climbing trip was nearly over. Reality was to be faced and never never land was soon to be over. My climbing days in Kalymnos always started at the crux: getting out of bed. Then Ramon and I would have a coffee and take in turns sharing the cut out water bottle in use of a bowl for our morning fruit cereal. Our room was awesome, I simply had my dirty and clean clothes all over the floor leaving the wardrobe completely empty. I found it easier so I could see where everything is, a pigsty, which gave personality to our room.
Jurassic wall is one out of many crags on the Island and is an hour walk, but kept it me fit and burnt out all the muffins I was greedily eating. I spotted an amazing route through the middle of the cave called ‘Rendez with Platon’ a soft 8b, it caught my attention. A 4-meter roof with dynamic moves to big positive holds. I had climbed 27 grade 8’s on sighting 2 of them but not yet gone from 8a+ to 8b. I have been in my comfort zone for too long.
Dad said not long ago ‘son…you have had it far too easy for far too long’ before the trip and I wanted to prove myself I could promote. On my first go I ended up hanging under the crux being shut down not managing to get through the roof until I discovered I toe hook. After 3 sessions I kept coming off as I wasn’t delicate with my footwork, not enough force on my toe. Star Wars, the force is NOT with me. I can’t tell you how much I hate toe hooking. Since when was toe hooking part of climbing? The move was stretching on forever in my head, like an ocean of time. I had heaps and heaps of power endurance and stamina but every time I approached to the crux I just needed master Yoda to teach me a little more about the force. As my attempts went by I built up a negative issue in my head with the bloody toe hooking and then it became impossible. Ramon had such fantastic climbing philosophy, he basically looked at me in the eye like some flapping goldfish and said ‘forget the bullshit and just pull’ but it didn’t work, I was just rubbish.
In the meantime Ramon and I were still crushing on the Island until my parents flew out to see me for 3 days. My dad, my best friend, my hero, the strongest man who ever lived. He climbed the highest mountain in Antarctica with Dough Scott on a North Face expedition in 1992 and made the first ascent of the second highest mountain in the South Pole at minus 62. He even climbed Mecca at Raven Tor……. aiding which I am embarrassed.
My mum is the opposite, never been camping since she was a teenager, hardest walk she has ever done is the stairs at home to bed and she has only seen me climb like once indoors like on a 6c and I even fell off it like 10 years ago. This was a perfect opportunity to show mum who I am. But first of all I had a tick list to do with/show mum.
· Get drunk with mum
· Do a Steve Mac bat hang on one of the routes
· Skip 3 draws and take a whoopa
· Mum to experience on the back of a scooter with me
I failed them all apart from getting mum to walk all the way to Jurassic wall, which is an hour walk up hill. I didn’t quite explain to mum the plan but pointed at the Grotta and said it was nearby. After 10 minutes mum was out of breath and looked all dizzy, 15 minutes she asked ‘are we nearly there’, 35 minutes she claimed she had altitude sickness, 1 hour she nearly had a heart attack trying to get up the scramble and was shaking like a sewing machine after she took a peep down bellow. Eventually after 2 hours she got to the ‘summit’ and had to lie down. After one warm up I hit my project and for somehow I made it past the crux then bloody fell off afterwards. I was too shocked with excitement and lost concentrate continuing. I should have had an ipod on me listening to something like ‘breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out’ as my breathing system was completely out of rhythm. But I had forgotten I was deaf. Since the sweat from Sikati cave broke my hearing aid I was stoned deaf for the rest of this trip struggling to lip-read everyone.
My mum was impressed and my dad was disappointed! I expected a pat on the back ‘well done son, amazing effort, next time’ but instead he said in phony, overly polite voice ’very disappointing, you should have tried harder’
Another 2 hours down to the road, 50 stops on the way, a rescue from Ramon as mum wouldn’t let go whilst down climbing the gorge. I finally had a beer and swim. On my first two days of trying Rendez with Platon, I always repeated ‘I am going to climb this route’ over and over again as we walked to the crag. The very same experience as Carolyn Burnham from American Beauty continued saying ‘I will sell this house today’ as she was cleaning it. In the end she didn’t and revealed her emotions in a disturbing way. Instead I kept mine in!
I was extremely disappointed with not getting the route but I always kept a smile on. I consider myself very lucky since my experience in Africa some years ago. I remember when one of my pupils didn’t return to class after she caught malaria when I was teaching in a deaf school in Ghana. I lived with the poorest deaf family in a shantytown in Ethiopia for 2 weeks waiting for my visa to Sudan to be approved. There was no way I could let this route take over me as I have seen other climbers get low for days when they are unsuccessful.
At last I arrived back in London in my flat in Streatham, wow a fridge, hot water, bath tub, sofa! As I walked into the bedroom there was someone sleeping in my bed. I had forgotten I had a long term girlfriend. God she is beautiful, what the hell is she doing with some idiot like me I thought. I am definitely the luckiest man on Earth.
I always suspicious Ramon is Gay. Photographed by Steve Gorton
Life in Africa, instead of teaching the locals Maths, English etc I taught them most important of all... strength!