Last weekend, Scott Albright wanted to try Eraserhead, a 5.12a in the Nears. We warmed up on Roseland (5.9), which starts atop a block and climbs a beautiful open book into a slight overhang. The traverse has small ledges that felt good for tiny fingers.

When Scott’s turn came, he began racking up. Whiskey Mike told us that a hold had been broken off, making it more difficult to protect. Despite this fact, Scott had little difficulty on the climb. When I tied in to clean and follow, I was utterly shut down. The big bulge move absolutely stumped me, and despite numerous attempts, I eventually gave up.

I felt ridiculously humbled. Every time I had fallen off, I became so angry with myself. Even more frustrating was the fact that I didn’t know why I was feeling so angry.

And then Scott told me I had to let go of my ego.

Ego! I scoffed at his words.

But in the end, he wasn’t wrong.

It was clear that my ego was in the driver’s seat, but admitting it felt hard. Without even being aware of it, my ego had become an obstacle to overcome. It was just the part of me that always wanted to be in control, and came from a place that was totally self-absorbed.

I realized that it thrived on outdoing and being the best, and because of it, I always had to be winning, succeeding in some way–losing was not an option. I liked being congratulated for something I had achieved in climbing. And why wouldn’t I? Compliments are meant to make you feel good. However, maybe I spent too much time needing that validation from external sources.

I want my ego to be as big as it can be when I’m on that crux pitch and I’m pulling a hard move–that’s when I need it. But to find a way to bring it back in check when I return to the ground–that’s about finding balance.

Ego. When to have it, and when to let it go and move forward. I’m learning when to set it aside.

So, humble pie. I’ll take another slice, please.

Cover photograph courtesy of Mountain Project.

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