Thursday, 18 June 2009

my massively and unfairly prejudiced and bigoted rant about SPA holders

Disclaimer: these words represent the views of myself, me and I alone. No-one else has been involved (directly). These views may vary depending on the mood I’m in and how much chocolate or ice cream I have consumed. This is not a serious piece of writing intended to hurt or belittle, merely a sarcastic and humorous conveyance of some of the stereotypical qualities of the SPA holding climber that either amuse or irritate me. Please do not be offended if any of what you are about to read applies to you (unless you’re the insensitive b*stard who seemed to think I needed to be “hoisted” out of Wen Zawn on Sunday, in which case feel free to take offence).

The SPA – Single Pitch Award: The SPA is the qualification that allows the otherwise average (or often below average) rock climber to assume an air of superiority over their (often technically superior) brethren. All the award actually means is that the holder can charge money to enthusiastic yet naive punters who think that the best way to get into rock climbing is to fork out their hard earned cash to someone often barely capable of climbing the stairs (let alone a serious rock route - the minimum requirement to gain the award is an ability to lead routes graded up to Severe, nothing more). The SPA holder will then be able to shepherd their clients to a popular single pitch crag (usually Stanage) where they will set up top ropes on a number of 3 star super classic routes (it should be noted that they can only supervise one climber at a time, but it’s usually much easier to have a number of routes reserved and readied). Other climbers will watch on in awe – muttering amongst themselves about how “incredible it is” that these beginners in trainers are actually scrabbling up said classics…

SPA requirements: In order to gain an SPA, the applicant should be:
  • technically average or below as a climber (struggling on Severe’s is fine, but if you’re cruising around leading at the dizzy heights of VS or even HVS, or you aspire to, you’re probably not really suited to the award).
  • intensely knowledgeable (aka a ‘know-it-all’).
  • someone having ‘excellent leadership qualities’, i.e. someone who is a bit of a control freak, is deeply anal about insignificant details and possesses a natural feeling of superiority over others.
  • a gear freak, preferably one who uses those red plastic boxes to keep everything all nicely separated in the back of their estate car.
  • confident and assertive; so that when confronted with a scenario where they can demonstrate their superior knowledge, they are able to do so in the least tactful way possible (this is often demonstrated at the belays of hard grit routes where an unwitting climber may have just onsighted an E5 but is dangerously risking the life of his second by only using a single massive boulder as an anchor, when there are 6 or 7 perfect RP1 placements they would be much better equalising together in a beautiful, yet time consuming, cat’s cradle arrangement).
  • self confident; so that when questioned as to why they have set up a top rope using anchors with the carabiner several miles back from the edge of the crag (thus allowing the climbing rope to rub back and forth in a mesmerisingly rhythmic fashion across the fragile, yet sharp, natural rock edge), they are able to very politely inform the well-meaning but misguided soul questioning them, that it’s all ok because they have an SPA so they couldn’t possibly be ‘damaging the rock’, or ‘running the risk of abrading through’ their rope. Obviously.
It appears that it’s not necessarily essential to possess all of the above qualities prior to commencing the training for the SPA, but they are necessary if the holder is to retain any of the value of the award over time. It should also be noted that the listed qualities need to be actively cultivated through regular use at the crag, the indoor wall and even the pub, especially those qualities requiring the application of the ‘air of condescension’ and the elimination of tact.

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