It has really been a treat climbing here at Ten Sleep. The limestone here, especially on the harder routes, is the best I've ever touched anywhere. And to top it off, it's exactly 'my style'. I guess that means the 'style' of route I enjoy climbing the most coupled with the 'style' I excel at. Endurance crimping and pockets on gently overhung face.
I put a lot of expectations on myself to perform well and despite knowing that I'm doing alright I don't think I'll ever be satisfied. Case in point: I sent a 5.14a first try of the day. Now most of the time I would be happy with that result and spend the rest of the day just having fun and climbing with no expectation. I put my draws on the 14a just to the right and started the mega-dog sesh. It felt hard. Harder than the last one. I expected to put a few days of work in before sending. Instead, at the end of the day, I found myself clipping the last bolt, on redpoint, and staring down the final crux. That little thought crept into my brain, "How cool would it be to send two 5.14's in a day?" I stared down the move and knew that what was about to happen would make or break a lifetime achievement. 30 years from that millisecond that was about to happen I'd be able to look back and say "I did that" or "I didn't." I chose the latter and fell.
I hold no allusions about the fact that I will not have that opportunity again. 5.14's are a rare breed and finding two, side by side, that suit me perfectly, in perfect condition is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I cursed and wobbled and let my temper tantrum slowly recede from denial into anger into depression...(wait, did someone die?) I know, I take climbing seriously. But, after a long hike out and plenty of overanalyzing I've come to a point of acceptance.
I've realized that I'm not going to achieve all my goals in climbing. I don't know if anyone will, unless they set them so low as to be achievable. My life list of routes I'd like to climb is staggeringly long. To Bolt or not To Be has been at the top of that list since day one. I like to think I'll move to Oregon for a year and do it but that's probably a pipe dream. Though I might end up in Australia on a climbing trip I'll probably punt on Punks in the Gym and who knows when I'll be back in France for Le Rose et le Vampire. I might actually not send my mega-proj at the New! That thought is downright depressing. But I'm slowly coming to a point where I can accept these things.
And the funny thing is that these goals seem to be more of expectations. I don't become overjoyed when I accomplish one, I just make the mental tick and move on, usually adding something else to the list instantly. Another case in point: It's been a life goal to onsight 5.13b. I guess I did that yesterday but it felt so easy that it somehow didn't count? I've tried much harder to onsight 5.12b's. Does that mean the route isn't hard? Don't ask me. Point being, I didn't feel satisfaction afterward. In fact, it's never been a goal to do 2 5.14's in a day! I somehow conjured that one up in a split second just before blowing it so that I would have something to be dissappointed about! Jeez...what a headcase.
All I know is that climbing has been so all encompassing for me for so long now that I've lost sight of how far I've come, the places I've seen, the trips I've been on, the satisfaction I have felt. Somehow I get lost in the moment of constantly pushing myself to do more, all the time, always better. It's pretty lame in a sense. But that desire, always nagging, has kept me healthy, alert, and alive. It's kept me from getting old! I'm still 23 bitches!
In a bizarre twist of irony, Max looks on mockingly as a bronze 1986 VW Troy look-alike gets hooked up to the tow truck in the background.
My mom likes to remind me of when I was a wee lad. I think probably 20? I used to talk about how someday I would send a 5.13a. I thought that was going to be the pinnacle of my achievement. In my eyes, everything beyond that was reserved for Chris Sharma and other super human, naturally gifted athletes. I clearly remember that day at the Obed, TN. I sat there beneath the Dark Half and stared at it. I had punted a few times already and knew nothing about redpoint tactics. I chewed on my tuna sandwich and stared at the holds. All of a sudden the holds took on meaning, I asked myself why I fell, analyzed the answer and changed my sequence from the ground. I tied in and sent. That day really marked the beginning for me of understanding how to accomplish my goals. I 'learned' how to 'learn' if that makes sense. Here I am 200 5.13's later and now I get upset if I don't do them first try. What the hell?
I wrote a little piece about it that you might get in your inbox if you have a DPM account. If not here is another 'radio friendly' version of the same thing I just said:
Opportunity Doesn't Knock
As I brought Andy up I could feel a sinking sense of failure on the route and the huge waste of opportunity. I started to wonder if the odd missed training session here and there would have made the difference? Should I not have eaten this or that? The chance to be on this route, in good conditions, with a good partner is so special. As I get older I sense more and more strongly all the time that life moves on, opportunities pass - for good. Just to have opportunity is such a gift. Wasting half chances is just not on.
Dave Macleod regarding his recent ascent of Longhope Direct (5.14a)
I follow Dave's blog fairly religiously. He usually has some words of wisdom but this quote in particular really hit home. I've been on the road again, slowly getting back into the rhythm of climbing and fully embracing the 'two on, one off' lifestyle. I've been climbing, in a committed sense, for over a decade and it always amazes me how I still learn a valuable lesson every now and then at the crag.
I worked out the moves on my next project here at Ten Sleep, Wyoming. I knew it would be a hard route for me so I rehearsed it, over and over, dialing in the key sections. Late in the day, I set off with the cliché of 'no expectations' and found myself clipping the last bolt and staring at the chains. I attempted to draw on past lessons learned and squelch the tiny nagging thought that was tickling my mind somewhere around the brainstem. "This would be a breakthrough for you. To do a hard route so fast. A once in a lifetime opportunity." I breathed deep, focused, and ignored the fatigue and blood that had seeped from my cuticles onto my fingertips making them slippery in the pockets. I set my feet deliberately for the last hard move, stared at the split-finger, Spock-pocket above and gave it everything I had. My fingers sunk not-so-perfectly into the hold and the next thing I knew I was hitting the end of the rope and screaming the F-word.
The opportunity had passed, and it didn't pass slowly. It passed in a millisecond. I lowered to the ground and just like Dave, and thousands of others before me, my mind raced with 'whys.' "Did I eat too much or too little? Should I have stayed at the rest another minute? I should have tied in with the 9.2 instead of this fatty 9.8! Did my confidence wane? Did I forget to breathe? I should have trained harder!" And on and on.
After a few hours I made peace with myself. That opportunity had passed. It was gone forever. But the opportunity to learn something was still there. I overanalyzed the millisecond when things went wrong and eventually came to the conclusion that I gave it my best. Sometimes that's all you can do.
I had a dream that night. It's kind of a recurring dream. I was doing a one-arm pull-up. I have this dream a lot and although I've never been able to do one in real life, I've cranked off hundreds in my dreams. This time I set a new record. I banged out over 30 and a crowd started to gather. My hand was latched to the bar in a split-finger Spock position. I think Dani Andrada was there with his shirt off. Hey, don't judge my dreams, OK. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to master a move, and why not do it in your sleep? I will not fall there again.
Dave's comment, and my experience, got me thinking about opportunity and decision. Most of our lives, we have plenty of time to make decisions and every day we are faced with opportunities. You could go to the gym. You could eat an apple instead of a Snickers. You could not pick up that second, or twelfth, beer. You could put away a little extra cash for your next road trip or study the guidebook and plan your next challenge. All those little choices seem frivolous and irrelevant but ultimately, they determine what will happen in that millisecond of opportunity when you don't have time to stop and think. And for us climbers, what happens in those millisecond opportunities defines who we are. It defines our success or failure and it determines if we achieve our goals or not. You can't change what happens in that millisecond opportunity and you can't change the decisions that led up to that outcome. You can set a goal now and you can decide how to approach your decisions in the future. And if you're going to do it, do it now. You never know when that opportunity will arrive.