I've been working my way through Jim Perrin's The Climbing Essays (pictured above), one of which is a portrait of Haston. Originally published in On The Edge magazine in 1996, under Perrin's friend's name, Martin Crook, the article takes a look at how Haston developed his seeming propensity for pain as a means to meet his goals. This yielded a paragraph in which Haston is describing his hard-as-a-coffin-nail, mid-50-year-old father, who apparently cruised up Western Front, an E3 5c, as his first ever climb, learning to hand jam along the way. The 18-year-old Stevie was belaying at the time.
Perrin goes on to write...
There's a silence. I ask about the effect, whether it had depressed him. He responds by asking why should it? After all, his dad was right - if he could do Western Front in his fifties as his first route, it couldn't be that hard, could it?
The message was that it was an easy route and he'd have to try harder. I'm not buying into this, so I just shut up and listen to him hammering on about his dad, about his toughness, his capacity to hide pain, his being of the stuff to which mountaineers aspire. He describes seeing his dad kicked straight in the balls in an East End fight and not flinching, just picking up his opponent and laying him out before going off to hospital himself to be operated on for a ruptured testicle.
I wanted to share this lesson with my blog readers because:
- the story is amusing in a "my dad's so hard he can punch through concrete walls" school playground kind of way, and;
- next time you're climbing or training and you want to give up because lactic acid is burning like rivers of lava in your forearms and biceps, you can think back to Haston's dad rupturing a testicle and unflinchingly carrying on.