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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Conquering El Capitan

White hot have been the Sushing 'phones since this morning's news of my crucial role in coaching  Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson through their glorious ascent of El Capitan, that 3000 foot wall of granite in the Sierra Nevada. We had intended my part in their triumph to remain secret, but an enterprising reporter tricked Tommy into lending one of the satellite 'phones we had used throught the climb for the boys to relay their concerns, and I my advice; and from there it was a simple matter to trace the logged calls to my Nassau address.

The boys were experienced and talented climbers, so there was little I could teach them about climbing per se, apart from some technical hints about the importance of the bidoit, how to approach an overhanging run-out, pressure-breathing techniques, the use of the no-hand rest, how to develop ninja feet, exercises to prepare for the mono, the importance of jibbing in a hueco, the dangers of gronking, the need to avoid greaseballs, the use of the overarm yarn-pinch, traversing in conditions of moins lesee, fulcral knee pinions, and... well, you can imagine the rest.

The focus of our work was motivation. We knew from our practice sessions on the cliffs of western Ireland, where I would lead the boys through some of the trickier ascents, that the greatest dangers to their goals lay not in the treacherous vertical planes of granite, but in the warmth of the sleeping bag, which could tempt a tired mortal to abandon the rigours of the climb and give way to ease and comfort. We had to find a way to ensure that the boys would be motivated to climb each day, regardless of the pains, the dangers, the psychological challenges. My solution was simple but effective- a remote-controlled device integrated within the boys' bivouac by which I was able to subject them to video recordings of Ed Balls and George Osborne spouting foolish misconceptions about fiscal policy- guaranteed to drive anyone up the wall.

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