Twenty years later...
My body is not the same. Less endurance. Less strength. Less determination. The place is not the same. More climbers. More routes. Harder grades. Line ups.
Some things are still the same. Rock is the same. The goal is the same. Trying to send no falls. Working sections on projects. Sore tips. Trying to stay warm when not climbing. Even a lot of the gear is pretty much the same.
It feels hard. That is the same. It's just that feeling hard comes quicker and with more unease. The head game is definitely familiar but now my determination to make things happen is lower.
With years between then and now, there is the reflection of time, space and mortality. Why do we choose these goals, work so hard for them and in the end we will all not really make a big difference. We will all just be candles in the wind.
Why is not the question. Why questions can be hard to answer and just create a position of for or against. The better question is what are the positives that one gets from the experience? For me the answer to that question is simple... climbing gets me in my body. I pay attention to how I feel physically. I pay attention to solving a puzzle. It takes me out of just watching things happen and puts me in the moment. When it is going well, it is definitely present moment. When it is not going so well, it is in the moment of chaos.
The real reason for this self punishment? The process. Even in the negative chaos of fear and loathing, there is a sense that one must overcome. Even in defeat and failure, one is broken and crushed, there is the ray of light that things may be better tomorrow. One chases the hope of victory over ones own physical and mental weakness.
The prize... to feel empowered. To feel strong. To feel that moment of success. Perhaps even to experience that freedom from all the other things of the world that entrap our mind.