Name: Matthew Canton
Hometown: Nottingham, UK
Occupation: Speech and Drama teacher/writer
Favorite food: Fish and chips
Climbing grade: 6b/6b+
My childhood was by no means easy but I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents who encouraged me to follow my hobby and helped me pursue the only thing that I valued in my life for at least the first 16 years of it… Climbing.
This together with a good teacher/role model helped me to focus all of my internal energy on this. I am sure many will resonate with my experience. By then it was already common knowledge that the great outdoors can do so much good for anyone who struggled to follow society’s norms. Though the British education system was by no means perfect back then, at least there were opportunities for some of us who weren’t able to follow the mainstream approach – (boys must play football and if you don’t study hard in Math and English, you won’t be successful). Sometimes outdoor education came from local youth clubs, and some good schools even organized trips. I was lucky enough to have a P.E. teacher named Mr. Claxton who went out of his way to help children like me to gain a sense of, “there are other directions and possibilities in life”.
It didn’t stop there with just children either. Whilst working as an adventure instructor, I was lucky enough to be involved with coaching and mentoring a group of ladies and gentlemen who quite honestly had a similar mentality as I did, they were just dealt different life cards – which had resulted in them getting into trouble with the law. This was humbling, as I could have easily fallen down this route if it hadn’t been for climbing. So what was the result for these individuals? I have no idea what path they’ve taken but one thing is for sure: they experienced the purest form of adrenaline through hiking up ridges, kayaking through gorges, and of course climbing up vertical faces, with a gateway of other opportunities and qualifications to gain…
Why climbing? It had its appeal even from the early days of climbing in the 1960’s when the approach to making oneself ‘safe’ was literally tying the rope around their waist and then hammering bolts into sheer rock faces. Whether that be from the ‘dirtbags’ (as they were called) in Yosemite (US), or the rebels risking life and limb up on Stanage Edge (UK), all in the name of getting a good view at the top. This long history of climbers being seen as outsiders had fueled the community with a fantastic, supporting energy that has open arms to anyone who wants to be part of it. You’ll find many climbers have the same peace-loving, supporting, and empathetic attitude to life.
Why climbing? What was it that pulled us ‘rebels’ out there in the first place? Was it as simple as doing something that was deemed dangerous by society but created a euphoric ‘high’ that can’t truly be imagined without doing it?
But there’s something else to it too… A reason that kept me coming back for over 26 years now.
Climbing is a mental game. One day you get onto a ‘boulder problem’ (a climbing route with a grade that intermediate climbers and above would use to determine their current level). It requires all of your physical strength but still, you don’t succeed. There’s a little voice in your mind saying,
‘Matty, this is your limit – you’d have to train for months to get past this”
So you go home, feeling defeated and perhaps frustrated that others can do this route. Perhaps you try again a few days later after having had a good rest/ pre-warm up. It still seems impossible. It gets into your daily thoughts and plays on your self-doubt until one day you approach it with some deep breaths and from a different angle or approach. You climb the route with ease from start to finish. That feeling of accomplishment is deep and beats any ‘high’ that I have found in life so far.
Now many people will say, you can get this feeling from any sport. You’re right, you can. It’s just that climbing is such a personal mind game. A mind game on which route to follow. A mind game on keeping relaxed. The rock face looks like a dangerous and unforgiving environment, but with a clear and relaxed mind, you can pass through that feeling and you’ll surprise yourself with what you are capable of. And what it has taught me in recent years is that of course it can be applied to other things in life too. I know it’s cliche to say this but it’s once again a reminder that anything is achievable for anyone in life. Stop telling yourself that you can’t do something: “you are not a math person, you can’t sing, you’re not a creative type of guy/girl”. If you want it and you are allowed to practice it, you will do it!
It was this mental game that for over 2 years now has had me obsessing with the idea to get a team of climbers together to take on the ultimate challenge – climbing the height of Everest on a climbing wall. Apart from the physical side of the vision (to succeed in any endurance challenge) the battle in your mind can sometimes be more prominent. We are going to push hard to get as many meters in as possible whilst being mindful of where the hard-earned money is going. With this in our minds, we are unstoppable. Want to find out more? Check out our Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/273753168219695.
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