I don’t think that aspiring to be a stronger climber is necessarily a bad thing. Think about when you first started climbing and how much you dreamt of conquering your first V-whatever in the gym. You tried and tried over and again until your first climbing callous! A milestone of hardened taped up skin that you took much pride in.
I think that physical strength and mental strength grow parallel with each other, at least that’s what it’s starting to feel like to me. I personally enjoy the thrill of challenging myself and pushing past my own limitations. However, the importance of climbing smarter is increasingly growing and I’m understanding the affection for a greater objective rather than a greater level of difficulty.
“I have a good feeling about this one for you.” Paul Brenner said in that naturally calm tone of voice of his, referring to Trojans (5.11c) at the Toxic Hueco area.
I glanced at the first several feet of sketchy blocks before the initial crack began and began racking gear to my harness. Carefully tiptoeing up to the base, I awkwardly sat in a puddle as I punched in my first piece. Clipped and ready to go (but why not throw in another nut for safe measures?)
Trojans felt like a dance with careful foot placements all the way up through an overhanging crack. It had interesting face holds here and there and a stunning flared crack. Eventually, the wider section spit me off and as I pulled my way back up the rope, I discovered a smallish dimple in the rock. I decided to try and use it and busted out to the chains.
We pulled the rope to rest and break for lunch and I felt pretty satisfied with my onsight attempt, even though I’d fallen. I didn’t know if I really wanted to work that hard again for a redpoint, and just knowing that I could wretch my way to the top felt enough for me.
But Paul was so psyched for me that I’d finished it. Maybe it was after watching Peter Hoang redpoint it so gracefully, or maybe it was because now it wasn’t about the onsight, or maybe I just really loved how much Paul believed that I could do it.
When someone believes in you so much, it’s hard not to feel the same way. When someone believes you can climb anything, sometimes you do.
Paul told me that it was easy now. He said to put in the gear and take a deep breath (maybe two), and then “just climb it like a rock climb”.
As great as I think onsighting things can be, in the end, it matters very little. I try to go into things with the idea that if it goes the first time, that’s awesome as hell. But I won’t be upset if it doesn’t go.
From the New, I scooted to the Red where I had the pleasure of meeting Becca Droz and Sam Sommers from Restoration Climbing. Becca had asked me how I like to start conversations when I meet new climbers. I’ve noticed that climbers often slip into a first conversation the question: “What grade do you climb? What do you onsight?” But what I really like to ask people is “What styles of climbing do you absoutely love? Is it slab, is it crack? What gets you the most psyched?”
My days in the south are slowly dwindling down. Now, the wildness of Wyoming is calling me this summer. I’ll be back out west soon, feeling full of hope and a new fuel to try hard. I’m reinvigorated from my time in the Red and the New and the people I met there, and I’m ready for what comes next. I want a splash of vibrance on a warm, desert afternoon and I think Utah is calling my name.