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There can only ever be one First Climb. My first climb was at a place called Omis, where the Cetina River spills out into the Adriatic. I’d bought a helmet and the strangely pinchy shoes beforehand and it was a matter of time before the right piece of rock presented itself.

It’s difficult when you don’t have a clue what you’re doing and what you’re doing could hurt you if you get it wrong. For a while, if I’m honest with myself, I’d skirted around the issue of climbing and felt gutless for not doing it, but also sensibly logical. But meeting some outdoorsy people who enjoy climbing during the Ourea Events job in Summer ’21 started the ball rolling, and climbing became inevitable.

I made ‘Omis Stew’ in the evening after the First Climb and I made the dish up holed up in the campervan cooking with one hand and writing the poem below with the other. You can order Omis Stew here. I have precious memories of these times of my life being well lived…

Climb
Croatian wall of Omis rock towers up,
Impossible to see the top as it arches forwards and towards.
At the bottom, boats tossed on dry land, amongst rubbish and broken fence.

Sport climbing, the rock leaking tears as bolts drilled in,
Categories meaningless in the void of fear and empty experience,
Kit endless kit, but life saving this time and the serious intent of coiled rope
freed by capable hands to run up the wall.

There he goes, leading the way.
This wall so unfamiliar and frightening and exciting and something I want to run past and
run run run away from in many ways to avoid the challenge.
Oh back to the boring safe comfort zone!

But drawn to this, this thing, to him.
He walks about oblivious with harnessed hips ready.
Do you want to do this? Blue eyes face me with the question.
Undecided but decided that go up I must.
Initial shove up then…

Silent.
Still.
Calm.

At one point, fear, inside a big bubble of it, but a quick step out.
A strong mind said no, up.
Below he stood making it easy. Too easy. It could never be that easy.

‘Lean back, tripod legs’ so I did, trusting him on the end of the rope.
Down then to a slight disappointment.
High five from others in moments like this letting their pressured pleasure pop,
For me a solid, forceful calm.

Back into the van, dirty wet shoes outside rules thrust aside as we shelter from the rain.
And I felt different.
Cold and calm changing to dry, and then off for water…
Still different. Moving slowly. Feeling different. Inside a stillness.

Questions questions questions:
Is this the missing piece?
The key?
The lock?
The slot?

9/6/22
Written whilst developing Omis Stew, after first climb; at Omis, Central Croatia
Main image: the source of the Cetina River, inland Croatia, near Cetina

Omis Stew