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Rock Climbing: A Satanic Ascension
Reverend Colonel Akula
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
Sir Edmund Hillary
Don’t look down! Yep, that’s what they all say. This over-used and very annoying catch-phrase always seems to come up whenever the subject of rock climbing is mentioned, usually by people who have never tried it. But you know what? It’s true!
Don’t look down. Why would you? Onwards and upwards!
This one is right at the top of my list of favourite physical pastimes. I figured that seeing as I have already penned works on the merits of physical fitness, one more isn’t going to hurt. Get ready for an extremely biased bit of writing here folks because nothing can ever make me say anything negative about climbing. Well okay, falling is a bit of a bitch and landing can hurt just a tad but that doesn’t happen if you know what you are doing.
Anyhow, let’s get started.
As you must know by now, I am quite the fan of health and physical fitness. I see it as more than an annoying task that one must do to keep the fat from accumulating in all the wrong areas. I regard it as an art form; one that requires as much dedication as any other craft and I see it as something from which an individual can strengthen their body, sharpen their mind and feed their ego through discipline and training.
I also love the outdoors and exploring the mysteries of the natural world. Truth be told, I am more at home in the woods than I am on the bus and prefer a kayak, a S.C.U.B.A. tank and a pair of hiking boots to a briefcase and a discount coffee card. It is that desire for both physical exercise and outdoor adventure that lead me many years ago to rock climbing; a sport that combines the two with absolute perfection.
I know what some of you must be thinking; what the Hell is a Satanist doing risking his life for some momentary adrenal fix? Aren’t we all about self-preservation, rational self-interest and survival? What possible reason is there to risk injury or death by clinging to a cliff like some demented, suicidal man-Gecko? Well, just give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.
In my opinion, rock climbing is the perfect Satanic endeavour that demands strength, discipline and willpower that allows one to overcome nature’s obstacles while simultaneously respecting its laws.
Unlike other, more pedestrian pastimes, rock climbing remains elusive to the masses. It is a mysterious sport that most people cannot ever imagine themselves doing.
Just watch someone’s reaction when you tell them that you are a climber. They are instantly impressed. They don’t know much about it but their minds conjure up all manner of images that denote fear, danger and physical hardship. It carries a certain weight; much like being a Satanist does and proves that you are a force to be reckoned with. This is not an unfair assumption when you consider the history and physical demands of the sport.
- History -
Rock climbing began in Europe during the nineteenth century. Early mountaineering was common during the Victorian Age and became associated or was perhaps more reflexive of Europe’s cultural and technological pre-eminence. Not since the Roman Empire had the West been so technologically advanced nor had its culture been so wide-spread. Mastery over nature was a common thread in European thought and what better symbol of man’s ascension to the top of the cultural, scientific and technological food-chain than to ascend and stand at the top of the world.
Aside from the metaphysical and symbolic motivations for climbing to great heights, human expansion and simple necessity lead to the growth of European mountaineering. Certain areas of the north possessed geography that necessitated at least a rudimentary knowledge of the principles of mountaineering.
Many of Northern Europe’s major settlements had to be literally carved out of the Alps. Rail lines and highways now run through Europe’s mountains with an almost Feng-Shui sense of harmony with the jagged geography. Almost all of Europe’s major tourist and freight trains regularily snake through mountain passes in scenic comfort and travel at peak efficiency. (That wasn’t a pun).
Well…someone had to build them. Someone had to plan the routes, scout the surrounding area, survey the land and coordinate construction. That meant that whoever undertook these tasks had to know how to get around, over and through those mountains. Eventually some lunatic thought that rock climbing would make an excellent sport…and what a brilliant lunatic he was.
As the twentieth century blossomed and once-thought insurmountable mountains such as Everest, K2 and the Eiger were conquered one by one, mountaineering began to appeal to a larger audience. Given the extreme cost, time required and very real element of danger involved, mountaineering remained out of reach (okay that was a pun) to all but the most
privileged or wealthy. As improvements to equipment were developed and smaller, local cliff-sides were seen as alternatives to the grand and dangerous mountains, rock climbing became increasingly popular.
Rather than climb a mountain over the course of a month, athletes were content to climb a cliff for a day. In many ways, rock climbing proved to be less dangerous but no less physically challenging. Climbers could now climb relatively anywhere provided that there were rocks nearby. Seaside towns, local hiking trails and bluffs proved to be fertile grounds for the avid rock climber and offered a wide variety of challenges. Specific schools of climbing also evolved such as ice climbing, free climbing, bouldering, lead climbing and top-roping.
Eventually a desire to maintain technique coupled with a need for year-round training spurred the evolution of indoor climbing gyms. Replicas of cliffs, complete with slopes, overhangs and inclines, were constructed in abandoned mills, breweries and warehouses with brightly-coloured, simulated (to a degree) stone surfaces.
This proved to be incredibly popular since safety could be professionally monitored. Routes could be changed by replacing or switching the size and position of the holds. Weather was never a problem and the temperature could be controlled with a thermostat. All of this allowed for year-round climbing. Climbers could stay in shape and refine their skills until the weather allowed for outdoor excursions, which of course is the really fun part!
Aside from being uniquely challenging and poorly-understood, climbing is a very elitist sport. Honestly I can’t think of another activity that naturally weeds out the losers and poseurs with more efficiency. I think that it is partially due to the fact that climbing requires constant training and dedication. A climber must continuously refine his skills and adhere to a regimen that repulses the weak, lazy and stupid.
There are few if any casual people or layabouts among the climbing fraternity. Sure many of them smell bad, wear ragged-ass clothing, shave less than a French prostitute and work three days a year…but they never fuck around, dither or lolly-gag when it
comes to their craft. So if you can get past the dreadlocks, foul, foul odour and tattered clothing, climbers are among the strongest and most dedicated people you will meet and many exhibit strong Satanic qualities even if they don’t recognize them.
In short, climbing is tough. For one thing you have to be in shape. Every spare ounce of body butter that you carry around is just another needless load that threatens to pull you down so you had better get rid of it. Your arms, legs, stomach muscles, ankles, finger tips, neck and buttocks, even your jaw and eyeballs have to be in top, physical condition if you are to succeed in any meaningful way. If you are not in shape when you start, climbing will GET you there, that’s for sure.
You also need to have perfect balance. If you try and climb like King Kong, all arms and hand-over-hand you will burn out faster than a French-Canadian boy band. Real climbers are slow, methodical and careful. They execute every move with direct precision, calculating every position and using their entire bodies for every move. In many ways it’s like watching Yoga, which many climbers, myself included, practice regularly. Simple arm strength is not enough; technique and grace are essential.
While it doesn’t appear to be at first glance, climbing is in fact a highly intellectual sport. Many climbers will begin by simply sitting at the base of a climb, gazing up at the task before them and meticulously plotting out the ascent. A climber is always thinking, strategizing and navigating the path before him. A slight deviation in position can cause a fall or force the climber to backtrack or “down-climb”, which is not only dangerous but not at all fun. I have often described climbing as playing chess with a mountain since success relies primarily on the climber’s ability to think at least three moves ahead.
Notwithstanding your strength, conditioning and willpower, the only way to overcome the mountain is to know it, dominate it but also work in harmony with it and trust in your own, hard-earned abilities to get you to the top. This really gives the ego a nice jolt.
I can think of no better sensation than standing at the top of a steep and dangerous climb that has sapped my strength, drained my energy and tested every muscle in my body. Upon conquering the hard and implacable rock, I love to just stand there and look out over the majestic and awe-inspiring beauty of nature with the crisp, spring wind on my face and the sun in my eyes and just drinking in the thrill of that moment. Nature just threw a mountain at me and I was able to overcome it. I swear, it’s better than….well, not really, but still—whoa!
However climbing also reminds you of your significance in the world. You may be standing atop a mountain but you are still just a mere spec on the landscape. This powerful symbolism reflects that strong Satanic love and respect for nature as well as
echoing Nietzsche’s assertion of man’s true potential. The Docktor once said; “Blessed are the strong, for they shall inherit the Earth! Blessed are the bold for they shall be masters of the world!” Sounds like a climber to me.
So now that I have illustrated the benefits of climbing, I should probably provide some details on how to get started.
There are various schools of climbing, each possessing their own set of rules, techniques and risks. Most require a partner to ensure your safety. This is accomplished by a process known as belaying. The partner or belayer and climber are attached to the
climbing rope that is strung through their respective harnesses. The belayer feeds rope to the climber as he ascends; drawing in the slack as required. This dynamic is the foundation of most schools of climbing and requires both partners to have a strong
understanding of the principles and mechanics involved.
- Top Roping -
This is the most commonly-practiced form of climbing and provides most new climbers’ introduction to the sport. The rope is strung through a pair of anchors at the top of the climb. One end is attached to the climber and the other is taken in by the belayer who simply takes in the slack as the climber ascends. Once the top is reached, the climber can either unclip and walk back down a path or be lowered back to the ground by the belayer in a manner that is similar to rappelling. The risk of injury is very small and long falls are almost impossible. Most indoor climbing gyms will have top-rope climbs of varying degrees of difficulty as well as providing training to beginners.
- Lead Climbing -
This sport is practiced only by seasoned climbers who have mastered top-roping. It is inherently more dangerous than top-roping and requires a much higher degree of skill and concentration.
The rope is attached between the climber and belayer. The climber ascends and attaches his rope periodically or “clips-in” to either pre-set devices known as quick-draws or into anchoring devices or known as “protection” that he sets along the route as needed. There is a greater degree of freedom in lead climbing but also a much larger risk. Should the climber fall, he will fall back to the last place he to which he clipped his rope, followed by the negative distance below it. In other words, if I were to climb four feet I would fall back nine (eight feet plus the stretch factor on the rope). This not only sets you back a ways but also contains the potential for you to smack into the wall, catch your fingers in a hold (and probably rip them out) or hit the ground (that really hurts). Therefore the climber must take extra care to position himself properly and maintain his balance as he clips in and must also plan several clip-ins ahead to ensure that he doesn’t veer off course or find himself in a position from where there is nowhere to go.
This is elite territory and is free of the noobs and poseurs. It demands a degree of skill and training that most casual climbers or lazy folks cannot attain. Needless to say the bragging rights are high!
- Bouldering -
This one is fun but also contains a high degree of risk. The climber ascends a large boulder or simulated rock wall of anywhere between nine to fifteen feet without the aid of a rope or harness. Although not required, a partner is usually present to spot or stand ready directly below the climber to catch him in the case of a fall.
While the heights are not very impressive, the degree of difficulty is much more physically demanding. Many bouldering routes are completely inverted or angled. The movements are physically intensive and rely primarily on raw strength and balance.
I use bouldering as a way to keep my body strong but also to refine my techniques. Think of it this way, if you fall while top roping, you don’t go anywhere. If you fall while lead climbing you go for a bit of a zinger. If you fall while bouldering, you hit the
ground every time.
- Location -
Unless you live near to or within driving distance of a major rock formation, you will need to find an indoor climbing wall. In recent years, these facilities have become quite popular in most major cities. They may be a little hard to find but tend to be housed in old, industrial areas, abandoned mills or unused factories with tall ceilings and solid foundations. Just do a little sleuthing and you should probably find one quickly enough.
- Gear -
When it comes to selecting your equipment, greed is good. Do not fuck around or cheap-out. Go for the best there is. This does not mean simply buying the most expensive but rather the most high-quality equipment. Go for the strongest, most durable, long-lasting (although any equipment, regardless of how often it is used must be retired after five years) and reliable gear.
Think of it this way; if you buy a cheap and rusted bicycle it will fall apart and you will probably wipe out and hurt yourself. If you buy a cheap pair of skis, the edges will dull, the bindings will break and you will probably wipe out and hurt yourself. If you buy a cheap rope or a second-rate safety harness, they will snap and you will DIE! Choose well and choose wisely. Go to a reputable store. Look for a reputable brand such as PETZL or MAMMUT and here is a novel idea, consult an expert!
Make sure that you also find a good and tight-fitting pair of shoes. They should conform to the shape of your foot and not allow for any wiggle-room. Aside from a small bag of chalk and some tape to bind your fingers, you will be all set to go. Budget for $200. Find a local gym, take some lessons and then go out and conquer the world!
A buddy of mine once asked me if I am addicted to climbing. I was very insulted by that remark and nearly busted his face for saying it. I’m no junkie! I just love what I do. I am not a slave to climbing. I am merely obsessed with it, as any good climber should be. A climber is single-minded in purpose and obsesses over his or her success. A climber is driven, focused and absolutely resolute in his will to accomplish his goal.
However despite the stress and fear involved, climbing is a very relaxing sport. It clears your mind of anything unrelated or extraneous. You cannot be distracted by anything save the climb. Once you are up there, NOTHING else matters. You can’t be stopping to think about those bills you have to pay or if you forgot to feed the cat. If you do, you are going to fall. Now this doesn’t mean that you are going to slam into the deck with a wet, chunky splat but you can swing violently into the rock face or wall and break something like an ankle, wrist or skull. You have to be focused and concentrate on nothing but the climb. The payoff is incredible. The view from atop a cliff that you just overcame is solid evidence of the application of Satanic principles. This is not a sport that everyone can do. It sets you apart from the others, from the rest of the herd and puts you in very exclusive territory.
While up there on the rocks, I am the master of my domain. I am responsible to nobody else and dependant on nobody but myself. As the Satanist moves through his domain to become the master of it, so too does the climber master his body and his mind to conquer his obstacles. He can bask in his success but must accept responsibility for his failures; always thinking, never yielding and moving ever forward…or in this case, upward.
I know that I have been rather enthusiastic in my descriptions of this sport and I hope that I have instilled at least an interest in you. But words are ultimately just motivators to action. You just won’t “get it” until you try it and once you find yourself standing there, atop a high cliff face that has taken all of your strength and will; exhausted and exhilarated, looking at the beauty and unspoiled majesty of nature around you. That is real evidence of your greatness and you sure as Hell have earned it.
This is what it means to be alive! This is what it means to be a Satanist! And the view from up here is superb!
“To put yourself into a situation where a mistake cannot necessarily be recouped, where
the life you lose may be your own clears the head wonderfully. It puts domestic problems
back into proportion and adds an element of seriousness to your drab, routine life.
Perhaps this is one reason why climbing has become increasingly hard as society has
become increasingly, disproportionately, coddling.”
A. Alvarez, The Games Climbers Play.
Dedicated to the memory of Sir Edmund Hillary
July 20, 1919 to January 11, 2008
There was no height too daunting and no risk too great.
Rest in peace, sir.
Reverend Colonel Akula is a Priest in The Church of Satan. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, author, herpetologist, humorist, film critic and self-defense coach. He has written and produced the Fang and Claw series of books which deal with personal, self-protection from a distinctly Satanic perspective. His works can be purchased at the CoS Emporium.