I don’t know what to say about the rock climbing in Vedauwoo except that I had no expectations coming here. July scared me because it was an entire month in a state that I’ve never been to and I didn’t really have a game plan. So far, this is what I’ve learned about Vedauwoo: It is always windy. The rock is always sharp. The rock here greatly resembles Dr. Seuss poop. And as Scott Massey put it: “The climbing here weans out the soft, the weak, and the spineless.”

One of the reasons I came out west was because I really wanted to learn how to climb offwidths. I don’t have aspirations of becoming a professional climber, I just want to be a well-rounded climber. But sometimes, everything is working against you and all at the same time: the flare, the lean, and the size. Heel toes, stacks, and wings started feeling a little more secure, which is about as close to feeling “nice” as you’re going to get.

Grit is an interesting thing. You grit your way through growing up, through high school, college, relationships and so on. Grit can be the key to success but is often an unpleasant thing.

That’s kind of how I feel about wide cracks. Climbing in Vedauwoo is like being in an abusive relationship with the rock. The physical brutality of it all, the tears, struggle, and constantly telling yourself, “I’m different this time!” or “I can change!” And, pretty much at the end of every day here, I’ve thought to myself: I want to go home. I’m leaving tomorrow.

Every. Single. Day.

Last fall in the Creek, I tried to climb Big Baby (5.11). Because 4s are my absolute enemy, I bailed and had a meltdown. Because I suddenly wasn’t the “strong” climber, and I knew it and everybody was there to witness it. As friends dispersed, I lagged behind and cried. Erick stayed and tried to comfort me, which probably made me cry even more. I cry, a lot. All of the time, in fact. In parking lots and at bases of climbs and every goddamn Disney film ever made. I know, I know. I’m a real girl these days.

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Offwidths are for girls

I’m okay with it.

October Light (5.11a). Photograph by John Evans

Climbing these hard cracks have been about learning humility, perseverance, and ultimately, testing myself. When we test ourselves in big ways, we start to see our self-worth. Going up some rock has nothing to do with the person I am; it’s because I have spent four years learning how to define my own limits, push past fears, and make mistakes.

Vedauwoo is going to take a little bit of grit to get to the top. Every day that I tell myself I’m going to go back to Colorado, I make the conscious decision to stay and try. It might take a little bit of blood and skin, but there are s’mores and psyched friends and at the end of the day, my dog doesn’t care if I can flail up a 5.9+ wide crack or not. If Shooter doesn’t care, I don’t care either.

The truth is, I don’t need someone nuzzling up to me at camp and telling me I’m beautiful and strong and worth it. Even when I’m flailing up some sharp rock. Even when I’m coming down, crying and defeated.

“The girls climb harder than the boys, here. They puff up their chests, braced, alone but staunchly, brutally forging ahead into the future.”

Camping underneath Wyoming skies. Photograph by Aly Nicklas

Cover photograph courtesy of Aly Nicklas.

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