Last weekend, Scott Albright and I were waiting our turn to warm up on Roseland (5.9) in the Nears. The climbers before us were dealing with a tricky rope issue, which gave us a chance to catch up after a long month of not seeing each other.
I regaled Scott with so many stories of my trips down south that we only climbed two pitches that day, Roseland and Eraserhead (5.12a). Roseland is this really wonderful pitch that 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.
Scott’s turn came, and he racked up for Eraserhead (which is rated R for a good portion of the climb). It was hard to protect. Whiskey Mike told us that a hold had been broken off, making it more difficult.
Then came my time to clean and follow. I climbed up the first part with little difficulty, but when it came to the big bulge move I COULDN’T do it. There is an intermediate crimp hold that Scott skipped and I knew that I might have to use it. Again and again, I fell off. I knew Scott felt my frustration increasing as I tried to recover from each fall, despite me telling myself that I COULD still push past it and I COULD sink that hold. I couldn’t. Eventually, I gave up.
I was so angry, and I kept comparing myself to Scott, emphasizing the difference in our sizes. Scott empathized.
Not making it to the top of Eraserhead made me feel two things: humbled and hypocritical. I felt hypocritical because I feel like I’m constantly emphasizing how important it is to try and believe that you can. Believing is what drives your actions and pushes you to the Nth degree, but belief alone won’t always guarantee that you’ll succeed.
For a majority of people, climbing is a just another social activity where we can spend our time with those we love and love us, too. But it also becomes an individual campaign for achievement. I believe in working hard for personal achievements, whatever they may be. I am constantly working on making myself a better climber to reach these my goals.Climbers, regardless of ability, who say that they don’t have that “ego” are wrong.
Climbers, regardless of ability, who say that they don’t have that “ego” are wrong.
When someone admires or congratulates me for something I’ve achieved in my climbing career, it always feels good. And it should! Compliments are meant to make you feel good. However, I remind myself that the confirmation I need should come from myself, first.
We grew up submerged in a world of comparison, since we were little kids, being put in juxtaposition with our friends, classmates, siblings. We continue to do it in our adult lives, even subconsciously. What I’m learning is that comparison will only separate us from others.
If it was at all helpful, then I might as well start comparing myself to Sasha Digiulian—who is amazing and so cute and blonde and talented. My point is that I will never be blonde. Okay, my other actual point is that it isn’t very helpful. People are different and we all have our own unique skills and value. I forgot about this and was reminded in my defeat.
Keeping self-awareness high but ego low is an interesting balance. I am forcing myself to recognize the fact that we ALL have our egos to face. The thing is, that like everything else in life, it truly is about the right balance.
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. I’ll tell myself that’s when I’m better than everyone else. When I am better than the climb.
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.