Woah. I needed that one.
Climbing has been teaching me a lot about humility and self-examination in the light and context of failure lately. For about two months now I have been absolutely failing-in great fashion I might add-but still failing to complete any of my climbing based objectives. I’m not one of those emotional freaks whose happiness is connected to his climbing performance; well maybe a little, but it is daunting to pour so much of myself (time, money, effort) into an activity and not see a return on my investment, and yet therein lies the fallacy of climbing. The fallacy in which people (or maybe just me) only view or have been viewing success in climbing as clipping chains or topping out. When really the return on my investment is the slow progress, the learning, the fitness, that all comes on the road to clipping those chains or topping that boulder out. The development of that never-die, always stay positive, I’m not going to quit attitude that really has no other choice but to evolve during the process of becoming a more confident, physically fit, technically sound climber. And yet, it seems to be predicated on the universal truth of balance, where you need success in your life to realize your potential to keep building that momentum needed for the ‘next step’ which can never come into full existence without the process of failure. They hold hands in the fact that they are both fueled by motivation and incentive. It’s really just a simple positive feedback loop where constant failure eventually leads to success which leads to more and more failure and greater and greater success. It’s quite beautiful really. I’m just beginning to see this beauty in climbing and now when I clip the chains on a project (which hasn’t been happening very often lately) I am euphoric and also looking ahead. Looking to that next step, that next challenge, and realizing that this is never going to be finished. I will never be finished with climbing.
So this past weekend I finally sent a project, Vanilla Ice at Little si. It’s a stepping stone but an important one and a route that I battled on for three weekends. I started off with absolutely terrible beta and this made the bottom crux miserable. I received a piece of beta from my friend Nick who had just completed Black Ice and had projected Vanilla last summer and at first I thought he was crazy and I knew it wouldn’t work but I tried it anyway and haven’t fallen on that crux since. Climbing is fucking brilliantly, frustratingly, enigmatically beautiful and complex in a sense so subtle as to be unnoticeable by the people not in its inner circle. Moving my hand literally six inches down from where I was placing it turned this awkward and strenuous crux into a sequence I now rather enjoy and look forward to doing. So that piece of the puzzle unexpectedly fell into place but then there was the matter of the middle and upper crux. I wasn’t worried about the upper crux (which I would later come to find out was a huge mistake) so instead I worked on the middle crux, dialing in the foot work and rehearsing the sequence until I was comfortable with my beta. On links I would start falling going to the elf ear, and then as soon as I latched the elf ear I started falling at the top. Another big mistake I made was assuming my beta was fine and that it was a fitness issue and the more I tried it the easier it would get. Well, this approach was neither correct nor efficient and I was starting to fall at the top, a lot, getting one move closer each time. Until finally I had had ENOUGH! I fell going to the last hold yesterday and I said, I’m doing this top part five times in a row and figuring out what’s going on. I had kevin lower me and I did the move five times, starting a little lower each go. This worked brilliantly. I started paying attention to the little things, hand movements, foot placements, and noticed that on the last move where I was falling, a small drop knee into the wall made the move feel worlds easier. I did it a few more times and then lowered and knew I was going to send next go. Waiting around for that next burn went from awesome over-confidence and hubris to nervous expectation and clumsy excitement. I started up the route one more time, not feeling great but trying to really focus in on my objective and keep my mind blank except for what it was I had to do. I climbed through the crux involving a wet side pull, snagged the elf ear and clipped wiping my wet hand on my pants, and then breathing through the next sequence until I was matching the sloper rail. I got my foot up like I rehearsed, turned the knee into the wall, and crushed it.
What a relief.
I was super happy, elated, euphoric! Finally completing a new line at little si, and one that will open up several routes. I tried not to celebrate too much but that post send bliss had me smilin’ ear to ear like a goof ball. Victory beer, cookie, and banana and an hour later I was booting up for Black Ice. At this point I was just running on pure stoke and unbridled happiness and satisfaction and I really had no expectation whatsoever. I didn’t even really believe I would get through the bottom crux of propaganda. I pulled on and started climbing and just completely had no idea what I was doing but somehow everything just clicked and even though I’m sure I looked terrible on the route I managed to repeat it and climb into the extension. I was surprised when I actually felt somewhat recovered at the mega-jug and launched into the crux sequence. As soon as I started to bring my feet up for the last hard stab I chicken winged harshly and came off, the wet sidepull didn’t help but I was also pretty pumped. But also extremely psyched! I jugged back up and with little rest I fired the crux and sent it one hang style! Holy shit I thought, this might go pretty quickly. I lowered back down and despite feeling very satisfied I also felt worked but thought if I rested for an hour or so I could have another window of opportunity. I got to the same point where I had fallen previously and I had felt significantly more tired so even though I knew I didn’t have a chance it’s a very promising sign to have climbed that high on the route while feeling fatigued. I’m so stoked right now its hard to keep a lid on my excitement. Vanilla and Black Ice were two of the routes at the top of my list for this season so to have one of them in the bag and the other one on its way is super motivating for me.
I’ve been training really hard lately in 3day chunks in the middle of the week. Before this last week I had been feeling progressively wrecked each week. I had this strange soreness in my forearms for two weeks where I would wake up in the morning and bend my fingers back on my hand and feel this intense soreness and pain in my forearm muscles. I finally decided to take a week and dedicate it to resting. I took three days off from climbing which is the most I’ve taken in 5 months. I trained one day and had a good hangboard session then had another rest day with a killer one hour massage. On my return to climbing this past Saturday I did not feel like I was in amazing shape but I also felt physically the best I have felt in a long time. As the day wore on the fitness started to return and I was psyched that I had decided to rest, it seemed like it was paying dividends already just in the way I felt overall. When Sunday-Senday rolled around I got out of bed and felt GREAT. High energy, high psych, and driving out to Little si I just felt good and in really good spirits as well. I had kind of given myself over to the process and thought if it doesn’t go today I’ve got all the time in the world. I warmed up really well flying up Techno and feeling good and full of energy. I rested briefly and then got on the project. Although I felt a bit shaky there I was again staring at the last move, I was so nervous I reached for the finishing pocket and flew off the wall burying my face in my hands. This is when I made a conscious decision to change what I was doing. And it worked. Commit to change, be open minded, and resolve to give yourself over to the process.