Last weekend, Scott Albright wanted to try Eraserhead, a 5.12a in the Nears so 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. Whiskey Mike told us that a hold had been broken off of the 12, making it more difficult to protect. Despite this fact, Scott had little difficulty and sent it with ease. Then I tied in to clean and follow, and I was completely and utterly shut down. I physically could not make it past the big bulge move and despite numerous attempts, I eventually gave up.
I was humbled, and it didn’t feel good. Every time I had fallen off (of toprope, nonetheless) I felt myself becoming 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 he wasn’t wrong.
My ego was in the driver’s seat but admitting it felt hard. Without even being aware of it, it had become a bigger obstacle to overcome than the move. 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, like a lot of climbers, thrived on outdoing others and climbing well, and because of it, I always had to be succeeding in some way–losing just wasn’t an option. I liked being congratulated for something I had achieved. Wouldn’t anyone? Compliments are meant to make you feel good. However, I was learning that I’d been spending too much time needing validation from external sources.
And truthfully, I want my ego to be as big as it can be when I’m on a crux pitch and I’m pulling a hard move–that’s when I need it the most. But to find a way to bring it back in check when I return to the ground–that’s probably the real crux.
So, humble pie. I’ll take another slice, please.
Cover photograph courtesy of Mountain Project.