I was torn between naming this post either "The Screamer" or "The Squealer" (the decision was finally made by random selection). What exactly is the difference between a scream and a squeal anyway? Not that it matters much... this high-pitched irritant escaping my lips when it really shouldn't.
When I first started climbing, I had to work very hard at overcoming my fear of heights. It's not gone completely, but I've learned to trust my gear and my climbing buddy / belayer such that I'm OK clinging to a spot on the wall, 20m above ground. That trust however, simply cannot rid me of my irrational (really? irrational?) fear of falling. It simply cannot. Once, I proudly declared to climbing buddy that I trust him with my life (literally) and he narrowed his eyes and retorted with "You still scream every time you fall!" which, sadly, is true.
Well, not every time, though. I've been rather successful in not screaming (or keeping the volume down to an absolute minimum) in these recent months. Honestly, I'm quite proud of myself. Not today, though - today, I was a mad banshee on the wall.
It could be the crazy 6a+ (well, not that crazy... just that I'm not there yet) or it could be that, in these past few weeks, I've been harbouring way too much repressed anger, frustration, disappointment etc. that subconsciously, I wanted to cry out. Either way, there was totally no motivation for self-control. I screamed nearly every slip, every fall, every near-fall. In fact, I even screamed when down-climbing (which, really, is an ugly sort of scrambling back down) to the last clip, which I always do whenever I'm half-way to the next clip, but am certain that I'm not going to make it without falling off, because I'm extremely terrified of falling from above a clip (and yes, this is totally frowned upon by climbing buddy). If you have not been in a climbing gym, Reader, let me say this - given the high walls and the vast space, any sounds made in there get major echoes. Seriously.
After lowering me down from another failed attempt at a(n evil) 6a which I can never seem to finish, we heard a scream from the top-rope section, and climbing buddy immediately exclaimed "Hey, that's your friend there... screams just like you do!"
(It was a girl, and she was belaying a guy. He fell, probably quite a distance, and the pull lifted her clean off her feet. I would say her cry was justified... right? Right? Agree?)
"Oh, she's worse than you... belay also scream," added climbing buddy. In case you're wondering, Reader, no, it wasn't meant as a compliment for me.
Right then, one of our friends came by and asked when we would join them for some outdoor climbs. They usually climb at Batu Caves on weekends. I chuckled and said I'm not sure I'm ready to go outdoors. He said, why not, and started talking about the easier routes that I could start with, the fun, the feel of real rocks, etc.
All I could picture in my head was - a gazillion bats fluttering in mass panic out of the cave, rudely awaken from their slumber upon the first fall I'd take, complete the thereafter-will-be-famous banshee-scream. It'll be a stampede on wings whilst the echoes of the scream are still ringing!
Not exactly a pretty picture... *Ahem*
Footnote: Batu Caves is home to fruit bats - see here.