Heading up to the Way Rambo cliff in late November, I had no expectations other than to share a good day and some snacks with my companions. We weren’t the first ones at the crag, but the popular route “Way Rambo”, was empty.

It’s rated 5.12- but perhaps considered a soft 12 for those with smaller hands (that’s what all the climbers with big hands say, anyway). The difficulty of a typical Indian Creek route is typically dependent on size. Comfortable with that particular size, I generously spaced out my gear placements. Near the top, I slotted a .75 in. Suddenly, the crack felt desperate. Hoping that the second traverse on would be as straightforward as the first one, I realized immediately that I was wrong. I spent much too long thinking about the move and anticipating a fall, and then called out, “I don’t want to fall here!” A pause. And then, “Hey, I’m going to fall here!”

Devin jumped to give me a soft catch and I took a big ride.

One time, I told Cleavon Cox: “Always take the whip!” This time, I did. Photograph by Alma Baste

Most of the time, I’m pretty happy to make it to the top of a route, no matter how many takes or falls are involved. That’s my general attitude, but my companions encouraged me to try one more time. It was hard because I wanted to get it clean on my second attempt.

The thing about letting go of expectations isn’t easy, but the best way to try is to live in the present and stop always trying to think ten moves ahead. Like all of us, I get so attached to the outcome. Sending a route is an amazing feeling, but when that expectation isn’t met, then comes the outpour of negative feelings. It’s something that we all experience, in both life and climbing. But when you skip the expectations, there is less of a rush towards the outcome—less of a race to the finish line. I don’t redpoint climbs, but this trip to the Creek, I went back to three other routes that I fell on last season and sent them. However, the real win comes when you stop keeping score and do what brings you joy for joy’s sake.

Cover photograph courtesy of Alma Baste.

20 thoughts

  1. Great post! I feel like it has taken me this whole year to really learn that lesson, that letting go of expectations not only makes it easier to succeed, but it makes things more fun even if you don’t “get the send”. Keep crushing!

  2. I spent all of October in the creek, marking my first journey there, as well as a first time climbing cracks in general. Those expectations, man. turn your back on them for just a few minutes and they’re out of control, adding thirty pounds to your body as you’re trying to defy gravity. Your post sums up the thoughts and emotions I had on the wall there quite nicely.

  3. I love the photos… I never climbed outside of a gym wall, but it certainly seems like a fun group of people to be around!

  4. Wonderful post. It’s not the destination that matters it’s the journey towards the destination. People have that motivational “drive” that makes them so focused on goal that they forget to enjoy little things along the way. Keep climbing and keep up with good posts!

  5. A great read. Thank you for the post. If you like young adult novels, please read The Art of Hanging On and Letting Go by Kirsten Bartley Lenz. Kirsten is a climber (not sure how active she is now) and the protagonist is a competitive rock climber who must navigate some major set backs and loss in her life.

  6. A great read and thank you for sharing. I agree that letting go of expectations, regardless of the context, is one of the healthiest and most productive things you can do. I’ve been doing the same with a lot of my exercise and fitness goals. I have no expectations. I just do.

  7. I really enjoyed your post. Managing expectations is so important, and it is something I have to constantly work towards. I also addressed this topic in my most recent post! Check it out!

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